Why the human touch can make a difference with your customers

Last month, in my first blog of the new year, I talked not only about Australia’s cost-of-living crisis and how it could contribute to a spiralling cycle of debt for thousands of people, but also how vital it is at this difficult time for organisations to care for their customers – and I mean truly care.

As we start to move through a new year, we are still seeing household budgets being squeezed harder than ever. It is a fact backed up in recent weeks by Deutsche Bank’s chief economist who has predicated Australians being hit with four batches of massive central RBA interest rate rises by August.

Putting the grim outlook aside, there’s no doubt that the current situation is also seeing people entering into unprecedented conversations about their bills, better deals, or even payment holidays with the likes of energy suppliers, mortgage lenders and debt management firms.

This increased and more varied contact is expected due to the current crisis, but what about the businesses who find themselves entering into these complex conversations? Are they match-fit for the increased contact? And even, do they have the right, or enough, people in place?

Quality customer contact

There is no doubt that advances in technology have overhauled the way companies interact with their customers. The automation and clever streamlining that technology can bring to processes is superb, but what it can’t replace is the empathy, warmth and personal touch of a human-to-human conversation where bonds and trust can be created, clarity and reassurance provided, and solutions to problems found.

In the situation we are embroiled in, it’s clear that customers are craving those quality conversations and it’s up to business to deliver those. They must ensure their efforts and attention mirror that need by preparing to heighten contact with their customers and be obsessed with delivering a positive service not only just by talking, but by listening and problem solving too.

With organisations required to focus on their core business as the cost-of-living crisis impacts them, outsourcing their customer service offering is something I know lots of executive directors are seriously considering now more than ever before.

The conversations I am currently having underline that those who would never have entertained the idea are now looking to see where the external support can help them engage with customers.

It’s been great to have the dialogue with businesses across Australia, but also to open up their eyes to the benefits of offshoring – especially with Sigma Connected having an award-winning model through our established operation in South Africa.

For many years the default option for offshoring here in Australia is to glance to the likes of the Philippines. But the success rates in the likes of Cape Town are now well documented with South Africa building a world-leading reputation for empathetic customer service, human expertise and first-class training that outweighs the service delivered from other offshore destinations.

That building reputation was underlined in a blog last November by my colleague Ben Jones who spoke following the release of the South African government’s “Value Proposition” document which highlighted why the offshoring spotlight has shifted to South Africa, including why cost and time zones now represent opportunities, not barriers.

Finding the balance

Aside from the advantages of outsourcing and offshoring, I’ve talked in this blog about the benefit of human conversations due to the current economic situation we are in.

Here at Sigma Connected our core focus remains around human-to-human interaction, whether that is through voice contact or digital channels. We have proven that’s achievable not only through our growth, but also by hiring the best talent and training them effectively.

Don’t get me wrong, there is always a place for automated technology which can give you cost-to-serve efficiencies. That’s especially true for people who have basic problems with their supplier and who want to self-serve in a quick and transactional way.

However, in 2023 customers are more demanding than ever with so many more people wanting time, reassurance and transparency. Because of that, and to give the best possible service, investment in people and training is going to be crucial over the next 12 months.

Having a human conversation is what gives people the answers and guidance they need – at a time when thousands need to know that they are not alone.

About the author

Based in our Brisbane office, Jason Cowan is Sigma Connected’s Regional Managing Director for Australia. Readers can connect with Jason on LinkedIn


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