EI vs AI: the Customer Experience

The time is now. As the world continues to change at a rapid pace, and we are bombarded with the idea of assistance from robotics and digital technologies, we must consider the intersection of our customers with these exciting and life-changing technologies. If you are a leader of a team, if you are a member of a team, or if you are a customer that relies on a service provider to look after your hard-earned money, then read on!

Yesterday, I heard a customer story that terrified me! The topic - identity theft! I was chatting to a friend, let's just call her 'Jane' about her very recent experience with having her identity stolen. The new ways of fraudulent behaviours are mind-blowing, cybercriminals accessing and helping themselves to your money. Not only are you required to navigate a world that you may never really consider it will touch you, but it is also now necessary to navigate the requirements and processes of your financial institution in order to resolve and locate where your dollars have disappeared to. Jane and I were discussing her recent customer experience that she has had with her financial institution after she identified thousands of dollars had been withdrawn electronically from her account.

Just think about it - you check your bank account. You're used to seeing your bank account slowly rising as you deposit and rarely withdraw, and you get an initial shock as in excess of $20,000 is missing from the balance. Now, this account is not something that you check every day - it's not your normal transaction account so it sits with your funds 'safely' you think, in it. Safe in the knowledge that even though you may not be achieving high investment growth, it's in a secure, trusted bank in an account that has no significant activity! And then the money has seemingly disappeared. Feelings of terror overwhelm you as your nest egg has dwindled to a much lesser amount than was there last time you looked. That amount you were planning to spend on an overseas trip, make a lump sum off your mortgage, or just stay there for that unexpected bill that comes in right about Christmas time, is gone.

You immediately contact your financial institution for assistance with finding out where your money has disappeared to and why, get it back, and stopping any additional funds disappearing from your account.

Jane's experience at this point becomes quite distressing from a customer experience perspective. In responding to the stolen identity and money, there was seemingly a clear lack of empathy from those dealing with the issue to resolve it. There was no one person to take ownership and be Jane's customer contact, no letter or email or phone calls with updates, no understanding of the hardship created when your identity and money is fraudulently stolen from your account, and you're not sure if or when you might get your money returned. I am being a little obscure with exact details of the situation, and rightly so, I am reasonably concerned that if I state exactly what happened here it might give fraudsters more ideas. But I am pretty sure there are people in the world ALOT smarter than me. Money went missing from Jane's account due to processing issues, back-end financial services processing issues.

So this story and Jane's experience got me thinking - what will stop processing tasks from being replaced by AI? Certainly, nothing if those processing tasks continue to simply process without either understanding the impact of what they are processing or indeed connection and communication with Fraud and Compliance.

Fraudulent activity on our accounts is terrifying to consider and can break us if it occurs and we don't receive appropriate support, care and communication from those working through our issue to unwind actions, investigate what occurred and resolve the issue on behalf of the customer. At risk is that we are forgotten, that those working on our issue forget we are human, with emotions that include anxious waits to hear the outcome of our issue, while we feel fear, stress and worry about our missing money and the future. There is a fundamental lack of consideration for the human being that our data processors are serving.

So often we can get stuck when problem-solving when we solely focus on the task, the step in a process we might be charged with resolving or unwinding. Whilst these individual steps are important, they will not be all that is required to retain a customer.

Without the understanding that a customer requires a human contact to keep them updated, report with regular updates, and even consideration of their financial situation (in this example) and potential hardship. With 1000’s of dollars stolen from Jane's account and several different contacts made to different employees, no one asked ‘Are You Ok?’ No one asked ‘Can you survive (do you have enough money) whilst we investigate and resolve?’ There is no-one responsible for looking at the operations of such an account and thinking 'Woah, there is alot of activity on this account in a very short period of time - yet it has been a quiet account for several years beforehand, I wonder what is going on?' No-one paid attention and asked any of these questions. We have lost some of the human in our interactions and services, and our organisations will ultimately pay the price.

These questions and our response to them is our human uniqueness. Our ability to understand the way others might be feeling and check-in that they are ok is what makes us human and gives us a sense of belonging. Yes, we may be employed to solve problems, to follow processes and tick boxes, but if we forget that as people - to show understanding and compassion to others - this is how they experience us, and this is how we must interact for our future success. In the age of AI, how do you ‘show up’ and interact with others - customers and team members alike. Do you make a concerted effort to connect and understand, to really FEEL and empathise with a customer's experience? And if not, then what is the risk? A process is a process - and how do we then differentiate from 'Sally' the chatbot or Alexa the digitised voice in our living rooms, our computerised assistant who can already interact with humans, process information, and digitally interact with others.

Big picture thinking is needed to assist our process-driven organisations. Why? Because our people are at risk. The importance of human-centred behaviours like empathy, compassion, care, connection and resilience will be the difference for our future. Jane's experience has been traumatic to say the least and remains largely unresolved, with little communication or case management to provide the support, information or even updated timeline to provide some comfort that anyone cares.

The great news is - we can all build these skills. Critical human skills like empathy, authenticity, connection, resilience, and having a positive influence on the people around you are all skills that you can build. With the right compass you are better able to lead, support, care for, motivate, and inspire the people around you. In the age of AI where processes will be digitised in the rapid pace of our world, individual's ability to build and maintain connection, compassion and empathy with their customers will be the differentiator. If you see evidence of these skills needing development in your organisation, you need to prioritise building skills and behaviours that demonstrate your team care to their customers and take action for 2020.

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EI vs AI: the Customer Experience--