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How to Be a Man and Do the Right Thing: The Human Side of Customer Engagement

This is one of comedian Russell Peters’ famous skits, describing why “Chinese and Indians can never do business together,” because “Indians cannot live without a bargain and Chinese cannot give you a bargain.” Unable to reach a deal and unwilling to shell out $34.50 (down from $35), Russell Peters was ready to leave Pacific Mall, while the Chinese shop owner shouted out, “Hey! Be a man. Do the right thing!”

This skit illustrates the fundamental gap between businesses and their customers: businesses’ objective is to drive as much sales as possible, and customers will only purchase the best value (which doesn’t necessarily mean price).

The real question is: who should be the man to do the right thing?

Equipped with modern technology, mobile devices and social networks, the connected customers have been empowered as ever, able to instantly find any product reviews or service recommendations at their fingertips. And the flip side of this is that frustrated customers are also quick to broadcast their bad experience using real-time communication tools such as IM, Twitter and Facebook. The “value” customers are looking for is no longer just products and services; they are also buying the experience.

Customer Experience Is Key

hybris, an SAP company that sells multi-channel (or omni-channel) e-commerce and product content management software, says everything in this picture shows the new landscape of “customer experience”:


According to a CEI Survey, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, and yet only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.

These statistics show how critical it is to connect the business throughout and provide consistent customer service.

First Step to Improve CX – Think Like a Customer

Maybe it’s easier to tackle the issue if we’d all stop for a minute and think as customers, as we are anyway. We expect to be able to order something online but return it in a store, or buy something from retail location A and exchange the product in retail location B, because location B is closer to work. As customers facing a company, we don’t think in terms of “channels”, such as “I’m buying a toy from Toys “R” US’s Emeryville retail store because their marketing team in New Jersey headquarters does an amazing job staying active on social media.” We think, “I’m buying a toy from Toys”R”US”. Period. We’re dealing with a brand, not channels.

This is easy to understand, but still challenging to implement as a company.

Second Step to Improve CX – Deliver as One Unified Team from Within the Company

Companies, or brands as customers view them, can no longer afford to make product and service decisions without customer insights, including what kind of problems customers are trying to solve, and what is the real reason customers buy some products (to seem cool? To seem smart? To be socially approved?) Besides observing and listening to the customers, leveraging the right technology that can integrate all the data from customers and facilitate communications between teams (especially the product team and customer service team, for example), is vital.

Customers are Humans

Even with the latest technologies and platforms, we shall not forget that customers are human beings, not transactions and outcomes. And as humans, we desire and embrace other human engagement. The company or brand providing the human touch, will win the customers’ heart, and that is the essence of outstanding customer experience, in a nutshell.

Can your company be a (hu)man and do the right thing?

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