Sometimes I get the feeling that people believe that everything in the future will happen online and all transactions will be automated without any or with very little human interaction. Success stories with self service solutions such as Taco Bell, who recently in a Bloomberg article, announced that orders made via their new digital app are 20% pricier than those taken by human cashiers or Chili’s, after installing self-service tablets, reported a similar increase in dessert orders, further influence this perception.

Don’t take me wrong, I work for a company that helps companies transform customer journeys with the aid of smart technology, and I know that there are customers who judge good CX based on how much they can avoid interacting with a human. But a service world without physical locations and human interaction? No way.

Drawbacks with automation
According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review technology lacks flexibility. When we’re interacting with a person and we’re having trouble understanding something, the person can adjust to us. If we’re having a misunderstanding, they can help clarify it. Technology really can’t do either of these things. A person has the ability to delight us or disappoint us. It’s really hard for a technology to ever delight, however, because it’s standardized and is built on a set of rules. But it is possible for technologies to disappoint us.

Dennis Campbell, Frances Frei, and Gretchen Gavett have done research looking at self-service technologies, in banks in particular. In one case customers’ overall satisfaction with the bank fell as the proportion of their total interactions shifted away from face-to-face channels and toward using automated solutions. Cambell and Francis also some years ago looked at banks that introduced online banking and found an interesting pattern; customers who switched to the online channel came into the branch more, and they started using the call center more, which was actually more expensive. So the tradeoff wasn’t all a favorable one from an efficiency/cost point of view.

So, automation of service transactions is apparently not always good. But is there something that can bring the best of the two worlds together? Yes, integrated mobile apps for employees in the physical location has the opportunity to change the game.

Bringing smart mobile apps to employees
Employee expectations are starting to look a lot like consumer expectations as mobile transforms lifestyles and workplaces, and employees start to demand better capabilities to help them work on the go – serving customers not only virtually but also in the physical location. In fact, an Accenture survey indicated that 45% of respondents believed that their personal devices were more useful than tools and apps provided by their company IT.

It’s clear today that customer-obsessed firms empower their workforce with technology. When companies were asked the question “How do you employ mobile in your physical location” in the Global Executive Online Survey by Forrester 34% responded that they provide their employees with mobile devices to serve customers.

If employees have easy mobile access to more relevant, personalized, and intelligent information in the moment, the customer engagement transforms along with it. Mobile and wearables for employees brings a host of advantages:

  • Put customer information to personalize the meeting in the hands of the employees.
  • Increase the customer experience by connecting with customers on their terms.
  • Provides a seamless bridge between the online and physical world.
  • Increase staff utilization and situational awareness.

Delight customers along their journey 
Omnichannel means more opportunities for employees, empowering them to become more knowledgeable & helpful for customers. In the case of the British retailer Marks & Spencer this for example means making it easier for them to provide on the spot assistance to customers. M&S have put iPads into some of their bigger stores to help their assisted sellers give a better service – for example they have staff that is focused in their men’s suiting. Here they’ve found iPads of enormous benefit – as part of the overall journey, helping a customer find exactly what they want, tracking down particular sizes or trouser lengths, and then closing the sale.

Equipping your team with workforce mobility tools is like giving them the map and the car. They have everything they need to drive success for the organization and to do it in a way that delights everyone they encounter along the journey.

And isn’t that what we are all striving for?