A lot has changed since author John Naisbitt first coined the expression "high tech, high touch" in his 1982 bestselling book Megatrends. At the time, few could have imagined the level of technological bombardment prevalent in contemporary society. As a point of reference, back in 1982 Time magazine named the computer Machine of the Year, Nokia introduced the two-pound Mobira Senator car phone, and laptops were nonexistent.
Naisbitt theorized that as technology evolved people would seek personal, human contact as a counterbalance. He reexamined his theory in the 1999 book High Tech/High Touch: Technology and Our Search for Meaning, where he chronicled the advancements and dangers imposed on our lives by technology. Further illustrating this evolution, recent Pew Research Center data revealed 66 percent of Americans now own at least two digital devices.
"Fueled in part by the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, the share of American adults who own a smartphone, computer and a tablet has doubled since 2012," wrote Monica Anderson, Research Analyst at Pew. "At that time only 15 percent of U.S. adults owned all three devices."
According to Pew research, today 36 percent of Americans own all three devices led by the 30 to 49 age segment, where 51 percent own all three. What does this mean for retailers vying for revenue in an increasingly fragmented tech world that still demands meaningful human connections?
At the recent Open Mobile Summit hosted in San Francisco, panelists described what it's like to deliver engaging digital experiences to customers in an omnichannel world.
Panelist Jonathan Lindo, Vice President of Enterprise Mobility at CA Technologies said, "Enterprises are dealing with the reality today that their customers are coming in less and less through websites and more and more through applications, which might be on their wrist, on their mobile devices, as well as web browsers, but to a lesser degree."
To be effective, digital experiences must be augmented by highly targeted and qualified human interactions in the physical realm. "Digital experiences are what link together the other experiences that our customers want," said panelist Marie Floyd Tahir, Senior Vice President of Digital Customer Experience at Wells Fargo & Co. She also noted how important seamless omnichannel experiences are to bank customers.
"A large percentage of them, over two-thirds in the last six months, actually went into a bank store or branch, so we know it's still important for our customers to be able to interact with people as well as with mobile devices when they want to do their banking," she said.
According to Tahir, Wells Fargo recognized early on that customers want continuity from one device to another leading up to meeting with the right individual in person. "We've also been experimenting with click-for-care, so that if you're working on the website or within the mobile app, you can actually choose to get help and get connected to the contact center; you can get a phone call," she said.
Moderator Steve Weinswig, Managing Director of Strategic Accounts at design and consultancy firm Fjord described the fluid expectations of customers: individuals want the digital experience at a bank or merchant to be as good as all their other digital experiences; consistency is expected across all enterprises even when unrelated.
Panelist Elisa Bellagamba, who leads Product Marketing at Twilio Inc., cited a Gartner Inc. forecast that by 2017, two-thirds of customer interactions will be self-service, which means the remaining one-third will carry tremendous weight.
"If the customer reaches you either because the transaction is very important or because it's viewed as urgent or a big problem, chances are that these moments will either translate into moments of delight, meaning additional loyalty, or a point of high frustration," Bellagamba stated.
Her point aligns with Naisbitt's theory and also begs the question: How do you detect consumers' needs at each touch point without alienating them? What is a balanced approach? Merchants and businesses today are faced with answering these questions, and each decision will either build loyalty through highly personalized interactions or send customers running because privacy or personal needs weren't addressed adequately.
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