November 5, 2018

The paradox of customer experience: human interfaces versus artificial intelligence (AI)

Let's talk about one of the most important paradoxes in customer experience: the “Human Element.” Why is it a paradox? Well, it’s because it seems to be simultaneously the easiest part to understand, the easiest part to execute properly, and the one that has the strongest effect on influencing and creating positive customer experiences. And yet… at the same time, it’s also the one that is successfully done the least often. Know what I mean? Let me explain with two examples from my personal experience, and I think you’ll see.

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Recently, I was checking in to a business hotel for a trip I was making, a process I’ve gone through hundreds  of times all around the world. Most business hotels are pretty similar to each other. However, this one instance, one of the lobby staff walked up to me and welcomed me by name. He had remembered that the previous time I checked in, it was also early in the morning, and that I had asked for a glass of orange juice, which he offered me. Of course, this stuck with me. This is the kind of personalized customer experience I mean when I talk about the “Human element.” This is the kind of interaction with the hotel that will elevate anyone’s opinion way above just another cookie-cutter business hotel.

Another story of the Human Element in customer experience comes from Gary Vaynerchuk. On a recent to visit with us in Belgium, Gary posted that he would be having dinner at a particular restaurant, and wanted to meet up with his fans in the region. Hundreds of people showed up! And Gary, despite being tired from travel, not prepared with a coat, and not even totally full from the meal, spent literally hours outside in the cold with his fans, to talk to them and engage them. This kind of act shows his sincerity and his dedication and, well, shows his human side. It shows his fans that he values them in a real and tangible way. And they’ll remember him for it. These moments show that many companies believe that the human part is easier than the digital part. I tend to disagree. You can buy technology. The human part, well, that requires human energy. Day after day. Customer after customer. It is just the hardest part of doing business, and because of that: the human part is the most differentiating part of doing business.

These kinds of things show the Human Element of customer experience. Direct, person-to-person activity that can’t be replicated by AI or any machine, and it’s the most intuitive thing in the world. This is how you get customers for life. You do this right, you’ve got it made.

If you like to hear more, please check out this video.