Consumers want experiences, not things.
Until a few years ago, retail was only a linear transaction between the sellers and the buyers. Today, the world of commerce has evolved into a thriving marketplace of interacting entities that focus more on fostering long-term relationships and creating value for all the stakeholders along the way.
Mere advertising, marketing, and selling don't cut it any longer; customers need to see a personal touch in the deal. To that effect, businesses have been agile in adopting the capabilities of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and chatbots to augment customer experience. These smart data processing engines churn out valuable insights that help businesses create engaging, interactive customer journeys by learning about their shopping habits.
This digital mechanization of a brand experience has worked wonders so far. However, the curve is finally beginning to flatten out. The endeavours to provide personal, engaging, and customized brand experiences to customers may have dissociated brands from being relatable to consumers. Quoting Mark Twain, "Too much of anything is bad..." holds in this case. 88% of consumers have brand authenticity as a significant attribute to support it. Real people establish authenticity.
Humanizing customer experience, thus, assumes a pivotal role in shaping the entire mechanism of doing business in the contemporary online commerce landscape. Let's dig a little deeper.
9 Strategies to Humanize Customer Experience
If you put yourself in your customers' shoes, you would realize you refrain from purchasing from brands that are vague about their customer experience. This includes delegating only bots across your customer touchpoints, leaving them no way to take matters up with an actual person or a quality that represents your brand.
To avoid making your customers feel you are abandoning them to navigate your robotic labyrinth, consider adopting the 9 strategies discussed below to add the necessary human (and relatable) touch to their experience.
1. Make the Customer Feel Exclusive – Make Your Brand Customer-First
The Customer is King.
To your brand, every customer is unique and exclusive. Ensure that your brand's conversation with your customers communicates that message well.
Leveraging tools like customer relationship management helps you brand collate data from disparate sources and create a customer profile to customize their experience with you. This is the best way to deliver the feeling of "exclusivity" to your consumers.
2. Create Customer Journey Maps
With the boundless sea of data available at your disposal, make your brand capable of assessing when and where your customers seek human assistance. For this purpose, mapping customer journeys comes in handy.
Many tools and software help you understand what mode your customers prefer to get in touch with you and for how long. Consider using:
- Co-browsing, live voice, or chats
- Quick-call buttons or options on the UI
- Video-based virtual support
You can also go further and proactively identify which users might need help. Neal Taparia, who runs the gaming company Solitaired, explains, “We leveraged their data to recognize when users were either stuck or confused playing a solitaire game. Then we placed proactive prompts to help the user along their journey, increasing our overall engagement.”
3. Put Yourself in Your Customers' Shoes
Nothing teaches better than experience. Unless your brand can understand the real-world pain points that the customers face, customers won't connect with your brand.
Design your customer experience to reflect how soon your brand can resolve its issues. Leverage Big Data to understand why consumers fall away from you, and delegate a team to connect with your consumers at the level of the problem.
4. Introduce CX Automation
The early bird gets the worm.
Humanizing your brand involves understanding when your customers would require your services or products. Humanizing the customer experience involves intensely studying who you are pitching to. Your brand needs to be proactive in its approach with solutions that are fitted like a glove to your customer's needs, which needs to happen at the opportune moment.
To that end, automation tools equipped with artificial intelligence engines help you streamline and optimize the customer experience design at your organization.
Automation also helps you deliver personalized customer service by using the powers of conversational AI.
Did you know that for 66% of the consumers, transparency is the most attractive quality a brand can have?
It is essential to let your customers know that your brand relates to their problems. The best way to humanize your business for your customers is to remove all the bells and whistles and project your brand for what it truly is, what it stands for, and how it aims to help them by levelling with them.
6. Capitalize on Social Media — Engage Swiftly and Consistently
About 79% agree that User Generated Content significantly sways purchasing decisions and brand image.
Humanization isn't merely about being outward with your brand and team to connect with your customers. Humanization can be achieved by initiating or inviting active interactions over social media from your customers at their will and convenience.
Fashion brands have been actively involving their customers in marketing by inviting social media posts with specific hashtags and merchandise, leveraging this engagement as their marketing content.
This way, customers know that a brand is genuine and not just a cluster of robots.
7. Humanize Your Communication — Less a Bot
More often than not, your customer service agents may come out sounding like drones, rattling off practiced scripts all the time, on all chats and phone calls. This needs to change.
To humanize each customer conversation, your communication needs to be conversational — the customers' language. This helps you project your brand as one of them, as a part of the community.
8. Be Proactive
Going above and beyond for the customers is a virtue that has the potential to set any brand apart in a sea of competition. If you have customer-facing employees who do their bit proactively to serve customers better, your brand needs to empower them and ensure they are well-rewarded.
These employees give your brand the necessary human touch to survive in today's market. Only when a customer feels understood and catered to will your brand truly assume its own identity for them.
9. Constantly Collect Consumer Feedback
Humanization is also about talking the problems out and smoothing down the creases. If your customers have feedback to give to you, your brand needs to provide them with accessible channels to do that.
Ensure that your customers know where and how to reach you and what to expect.
Delegate a feedback team that works with the customers to resolve issues and express gratitude where required.
Benefits of Humanizing Customer Experience
Brands today have discovered new avenues to humanize their image in the eyes of consumers. With the internet being a resource that is easily accessible to the masses today, it isn't hard to personify your brand using this consumer engagement channel.
1. Differentiate Your Brand
Going above and beyond for the customers is a virtue that has the potential to set any brand apart in a sea of competition. If you have customer-facing employees who do their bit proactively to serve customers better, these employees that give your brand the necessary human touch needed to survive in the market today.
2. Communicate Your Brand Story
Every brand starts as an idea. Tell your customers your story – how the business began and the challenges it had to face. Tell them about the factors that shaped your brand's ethos and what it means for you to deliver excellent service to the masses.
Stories can do wonders in helping your brand relate with your customers on a level playing field. The challenges resonate with the customers' lives; they relate to stories better than only learning about what your company does.
3. Promotes Better Customer Experiences
Customers prefer engaging with brands that know what and how to contact them. Humanization focuses on delivering exclusive experiences to your customers, which in turn help you provide hyper-personalized and customized experiences to your audience.
By creating customer profiles, your brand can leverage historical shopping data and customer preferences to augment humanlike consideration into their experiences with your brand. "We understand your needs" is the ideal way to approach customers.
4. Increases Customer Loyalty and Retention
Ideally, a customer seeks to lessen his burden of looking for products whenever needed. For that reason, customers prefer sticking to a brand they can relate to, which identifies and acts on their problems and offers the right solution at the right time.
Since this is what humanization is about, it can help your business scale the path from catering to a large, unstable consumer base to solidified, steadily improving loyal repeat customers.
5. Drives Brand Advocacy
A great consumer experience with a brand gets customers talking. About 75% of buyers in a B2B scenario would turn to sources of advocacy (typically three or more sources) before they seal a deal.
Humanization takes your brand one step closer to driving consumer advocacy.
5. Uncover Cross-Sell and Up-Sell Opportunities
Humanization deals with getting to know your customer better. If a consumer purchases a mobile phone from you, your brand can move to pitch a mobile cover or a pair of ear pods to go with it.
Instead of inserting the recommendations on their checkout journey, your brand could humanize the experience by enabling conversational AI to assist your customers as they shop and subtly slip in upsell and cross-sell strategies.
Brands That Do It Well
All the strategies of customer experience humanization have been deployed successfully by brands that we all now know on a household basis. Let's look at a few brands that have humanized their customer experiences.
Humanization strategy: Brand personalization
Fitbit knows what its users sign up for when they download their app—keeping that in mind, the company stitches together a "board" at the end of every week with the user's fitness performance displayed vis-à-vis the previous week's performance.
This helps users get the data they want without initiating support matrices or calling people up.
Humanization strategy: Respecting customer privacy
Instacart clearly understood that about 82% of the customers require justification to provide brands with certain information. At each step, they need information from their users. Instacart communicates what they need it for, building trust with their audience.
Whether it is an email, a phone number, or something self-evident like a delivery address, Instacart states everything in broad daylight.
3. Burger King
Humanization strategy: Rising for a social cause
Burger King didn't just rise for any social cause. Understanding that the pandemic impacted every business similarly, they decided to encourage their customers to purchase from McDonald's.
Their customers were bamboozled, but the message was clear: Burger King stated that if their customers could spend on Whoppers, they could also help out the staff employed at McDonald's by giving them business instead of buying from Burger King for a while.
They showed people their brand could rise above profits, even during a crisis.
Humanization strategy: Be conversational
CNN found a great way to engage people in the news, which has always been considered boring and a challenge for engagement. They made it conversational – like two friends talking to each other – through push notifications.
By leveraging real-life scenarios to make news relevant, CNN humanized the monotonous experience of reading news.
Humanization strategy: Putting yourself in customers' shoes
Cineplex, the Canadian entertainment giant, struggled with scalability and usability issues on its website, ultimately compromising its user experience.
By understanding that their customers would want to see online ticketing on their website and support for multiple languages, the brand responded to upgrades that ultimately got them 1.6 million daily page views and a 15% boost in revenue [AgilityCMS case study].
Humanizing customer experience isn't about moving away from technology or chatbots. It is about augmenting customer experience with human value in a way that they feel heard, valued, and cared for by your brand.
By utilizing the above strategies, you can humanize your customer experiences across all digital touchpoints without worrying about overdoing technology or sentiment.