Another look at tech-driven customer service

Another look at tech-driven customer service

ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR writes on the new challenges birthed by tech-driven customer care, which was introduced to ease business operations 

Business operators within the Nigerian retail economy are fast integrating technology into their processes for better service delivery. The adoption of tech in the retail economy by service providers, particularly within the telecommunication and banking industries, elicited the debate on which of the complaint resolution platforms serves the consumer more satisfactorily, as not a few companies have continued to key into technology to enhance their processes and harness the opportunities that abound therein.

The proper application of tech in the form of digitisation has significant potential to improve the quality of service delivery within the retail value chain. It has huge upsides for individual companies and the sector as a whole, especially in the areas of predictive analytics, forecasting and demand for various products at different locations, better pricing algorithms that can react to changes in the cost of import and cost for customer needs, pattern analytics of customer feedbacks to identify potential risks before they become sources of customer dissatisfaction among others.


Tech development

In fact, tech development, as witnessed today, began since consumers welcomed  e-commerce. It has since became handy for retail operators  to achieve higher levels of convenience and speedy delivery.

With the ever-growing penetration of smartphones and mobile devices and an increased need for personalised service, the requirement for retailers to embrace big data, sometimes called business intelligence, to enable them understand the specific profile and needs of customers and connect with them at their points of need is becoming relevant in responding to customers’ complaints. 


Tech and human touch customer experience 

On the landscape of consumerism, with particular reference to customer service, the likely questions on the lips of most consumers is, ‘which is better between technology and the human touch customer experience?’

The question may not be faulted, as tech development in consumerism has changed the way many businesses approach customer service. But are these high-tech developments actually helping? 

Some people have bemoaned the increasing trend towards integrating tech solutions into customer service processes, which, they say, are signifying the loss of the human touch. Customer service is fast changing just as the tech landscape, and companies are increasingly relying on tech to make their systems more efficient or to help them meet an increased work load.


Customers’ experience 

The debate is a complex, taking into account modern business practices, technology, the newly empowered consumer and how we want businesses to behave in the modern world.

To really answer the question, Financial Street sought the view of consumers.

Chinedu Uzor, who had issues with his telephone line during the Coronavirus Disease-induced lockdown, had dialed the customer care line of the telecommunications operator to complain of being overcharged.  

His words, “For the umpteenth time, I called the customer care unit, but I was more often than not put on hold. To a large extent, I was unsatisfied with the service, as as no helpful feedback came, even after engaging a customer care officer, who promised to help me resolve the issue.

“Despite her promise, nothing was done. It took me a week to resolve the complaint. However, it was not resolved through tech-enhanced customer care device, as I had to approach the complaint centre, in person, somewhere in Victoria Island.”

A similar challenge was also faced by Mrs Nike Ajidagba, a trader at Mowe, Ogun State.

She said, “Not once, my daughter tried to help me resolve the challenge I had with my Subscribers’ Identification Module card, by dialing the customer care line of my telephone service provider, to no avail. So, I personally went to the customer centre at Mowe before the complaint was resolved. In fact, my daughter had to visit the provider’s office, as she tried to reach the customer service representative through the company’s call centre lines, by calling repeatedly, and the challenge persisted. More so, there was no human touch for her to be sure that, at least, someone was attending to her.”


Enter the scammers

Similarly, in the banking sector of the economy, scammers send phoney messages to bank customers’ mobile phones, disguising to be customer care officer of such bank working on their accounts. They deceive customers about ‘an invented’ challenge on their individual accounts. They would demand the customer’s Automated Teller Machine or Bank Verification Number details. Some of them dictate numbers on their unsuspecting targets’ details and proceed to ask them to read out the rest to them.

Some of the fraudsters allegedly operate within the banks. Those believed to be working from outside sometimes send SMS to individuals who do not and have never maintained accounts with a particular bank. Some of their messages sound genuine and convincing. With that, they easily scam gullible ones. 

These evil perpetrators, Financial Street gathered, are not within the banking system. They thrive on their Internet skills and sometimes on their understanding of the victims’ routine and identity.

The fraudsters are wont to deceptively use the unwary victim’s BVN.

The BVN, which was introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2014, requires all bank account holders to undertake biometric registration to ensure security and check crimes. 

But fraudsters have found a way to circumvent the system by sending bank customers false emails asking for their details.

A victim recently narrated, “I needed to make some transactions and I headed for my bank. I had called my account officer ahead of time. On getting to the bank, I connected my computer and got a mail from the supposed same bank. I was asked to click on a link and supply my BVN details for update of my account or face service suspension on the account. I just clicked the link and supplied my details and behold, N1m debit alert came on my phone within five minutes. I was devastated, but before we could do anything, they had withdrawn everything.”

Kelvin Ugbo, a marketer, said, “In this digital era, face-to-face customer service is still the best approach to resolve consumers’ complaints, when it comes to business, especially when beginning a project.

“Text messages, Whatsapp, emails and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and dedicated customer care line are all great tools to have; but often, face-to-face communication is the best, as details can be discussed more perfectly  before work commences.”

According to him, nothing compares to face-to-face communication when trying to really understand how a customer interprets the information and the advice from the customer care.

He added, “Face-to-face communication with customers allows both sides to equally and honestly present their ideas and expectations, allowing projects to run fluently and efficiently.”

Ugbo explained that although not a few people might appreciate the benefits of face-to-face customer service, it could really help in building a great relationship with clients.

“In industries such as graphic design, face-to-face communication is vital to really understand a client’s interpretation of visual concepts and understand exactly what they want to achieve,” he noted. 

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