Many leading marketers are saying that personalisation will be the trend of the year.
So it may seem contradictory that a major high street bank should close down counter service in some major branches, replacing people with machines. With bank computers rather than human beings already taking most important decisions, how long will it be before Bill Gates’ prediction that ‘bots’ will replace people in millions of jobs soon comes true, especially in banks?
Meanwhile on many websites, personal contact has already been eliminated. There is no phone number to call. ‘Contact us’ has become a template form on which any question or comment has to be typed and sent to an anonymous – enquiries@….. Even if there is a number, there is often complicated automated telephone service that most people find annoying and frustrating.
It is a poor reflection on the customer service policies of many companies that consumers often exchange tips on the shortest way to cheat the system to speak to a human being; threatening to leave usually works!
What the marketers actually mean by ‘personalisation’ is tailored, personalised communications – generated and issued by computers. Personalisation does not mean more ‘humanisation’.
The NHS is one organisation that has recognised that ‘customers’ – patients and their families – want more human contact. It is one of several who have heard that customers want to deal with a named person regularly and are apparently reintroducing this.
From a PR perspective, what do the public audiences, the stakeholders want? While investors will be happy if replacing people with machines cuts costs and increases dividends, most customers would say they would prefer to speak to someone ‘live’ even if it adds to costs slightly.
So, even if it costs a little more, isn’t it time for the ‘rehumanisation’ of PR and customer services, time to put phone numbers back on websites and to put human beings, rather than endless frustrating automated messages and answerphones on the end of the phone lines? While customers would surely like this and sign up to companies that pledged that you can speak to a human being, it is a step which would enhance the reputation of the businesses.