Embrace technology, but make it human

Technology is changing, developing, and revolutionising the world at a super-fast pace. Humans are changing too. Here’s how you can use tech to impact the loyalty space, with humans at the forefront of it all.

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Technology. A valuable resource. An asset. The magic ingredient to elevate your brand?

In part.

In today’s world, technology is always in the conversation. In the brand space and specifically in loyalty, we’re always thinking about how we can use technological capabilities to make processes work better, to enhance loyalty programmes and ultimately drive engagement.

But there are a few details to consider. Yes, technology is integrated into daily life, and we use it considerably more than in previous decades but, there is still a huge preference (86% as stated by Forbes to be specific for human interaction in many cases.

The takeaway: Give multiple options at every touchpoint

People accept – and sometimes prefer – automated services, appreciating the seamless, faster experiences.

Fast responses and efficient services are in demand. In fact, customer experience experts say that there has been a 20% increase in valuing quick resolutions. In part thanks to the meteoric rise of ChatGPT, the chatbot market in the US is also projected to grow to 1.25 billion U.S. dollars by 2025 – a big increase from the 2016 market size (190.8 million U.S. dollars).

But there is a wider picture to consider. In the wake of COVID-19, there has been a 42% increase in valuing helpful, empathetic agents. People want more than speed – they want the assurance that their issues will be solved by someone who understands and is equipped to help them accordingly.

Brands need to find a balance. We should use technology to our advantage, whilst acknowledging the importance of human interaction at certain touchpoints.

Staying connected to your customers

User experience (UX) has a big part to play when it comes to individual’s opinion of any given brand. A smooth experience will leave customers satisfied and excited to interact with your brand again in the future. A poor experience, on the other hand, can drive users away from your site. And perhaps even your brand. 

In fact, 88% of consumers are less likely to return to a site with bad UX. That’s why it’s so important to get things right.

In IAG Loyalty’s recent roundtable talk, CCO Silvia Espinosa de los Monteros spoke on the topic of tech processes, addressing the risks of completely automating certain processes between consumers and online platforms. She explained that by leaving these processes to technology, we end up having ‘machines developing the experiences, potentially making it cold for the customer.’ 

As mentioned before, data from Forbes online supports this by saying that 86% of consumers prefer humans to chatbots.

This is not to say that these technological innovations aren’t useful, but it does go to say that they aren’t a replacement for talking to an actual human. When thinking about long-term loyalty strategies, having humans readily available to assist consumers alongside tech allows you to build an emotional connection – the kind of emotional connection that keeps customers coming back, that makes them trust your brand and ultimately the type that drives long-term loyalty. 

It's all about balance 

In that same roundtable, Google’s Finnbar Cornwall commented on the importance of getting this balance right, saying there should be ‘human touch at the right points’.

In his talk, he gave the example of someone going to the airport to board a flight. ‘I love the fact that I can check into a BA flight, on my app, go straight into security, onto the plane, talking to the fewest number of people possible, making it as quick as possible’. This is an example of the advancement of technology. And this is technology making processes easier for consumers within their own preferences.

Finnbar also acknowledges that this is the challenge for brands right now. People want choice. People have preferences. And brands are required to have as many options as possible at the ready. ‘Whilst sometimes people want the in-app chat as that’s the quickest way for them to get an answer, sometimes they might want to phone up and talk to someone.’ 

To sum up: It’s all about giving them options. Consumers want brands to show they know them and their preferences, but they also still want autonomy of choice. 

If we shift our focus to customer loyalty, we understand that the relationship between a customer and a company grows over time. And if a relationship is growing it means, consequently, both parties are beginning to know each other more and more, and understanding each other's likes, dislikes, habits, and preferences. What does this mean? You can offer tailored solutions and rewards, strengthening the emotional connection and again, driving long-term loyalty.

As we addressed in our previous article 5 things to know about customer loyalty in 2023, it’s important for companies offering loyalty programmes to get to know the habits of their members, understanding their preferences so that each customer is tailored to with relevant and appealing rewards. In one of our recent articles around incentivising members which you can find here, we concluded that choice is key. Giving our customers more and more ways to redeem rewards makes it possible for them to find the rewards that are most meaningful, therefore keeping them engaged with the programmes.

Andrew Brem, General Manager at Uber, spoke on the matter. He said brands need to be ‘relevant and targeted without being creepy’. We must remember that many individuals are wary of AI, so it’s even more important to tailor to your consumers in a way that shows you’ve been listening, but that is also authentic and human.  

Bringing it all together  

We’ve spoken a lot about balance and about how to best utilise tech capabilities whilst still maintaining a human touch. We believe that in doing this, brands are able to create a sweet spot where consumers have exactly what they need – tailored rewards, relevant content and customer service preferences specific to them.

To help get this balance right, we’ve identified these three pillars which you can focus on, to help you use tech to your advantage.

1. The first is efficiency. People want speed. Technology makes it capable for brands to give it to them. By automating the right parts of the process, you create an experience that gives your consumers exactly what they need at a speed they value. Then by having humans on hand also, you ensure that efficiency won’t be compromised if something goes wrong. According to a survey by the Global Consumer Experiences. 84% of consumers are more inclined to do business with organisations that offer self-service options, but only 61% agree that organisations are providing easy, convenient self-service.’ Self-service capability, for example, has revolutionised the retail space (amongst other industries that use these) making shopping a faster and more coherent task, and consequently driving loyalty for your customers. 

2. The second, seamlessness. Seamless tech is one way to make the lives of your customers easier, whether that’s by having an omnichannel approach where consumers can buy online and pick up in store, or virtual check in for flights allowing you to go straight from bag drop through to security at the airport. Experts say that anticipating customer needs is an important factor in ensuring long, loyal relationships with customers so the value of working to create seamless services is clear. 

3. The third pillar is empathy. As we move into a world of AI and automation (the fastest growing customer experience technology), and as computers are getting smarter and smarter, it’s pivotal to understand that your customers will have different preferences and be able to adhere to these preferences in personalised and tailored ways., For example, having the option within online chat functions to call up and speak to advisor, as Espinosa mentioned in the roundtable, shows consumers that you’ve thought about them and will allow for increased satisfaction. After all, customer satisfaction is one of the most direct ways of building customer loyalty 

At IAGL, we’re enhancing our tech capabilities to make loyalty work better.  

One of the ways we’ve done this is through our Card Linked Offers (CLO) white-label solution. We’ve made earning rewards a seamless experience for members when shopping both on and offline. This mechanic allows members to simply link their credit or debit cards, and shop as they normally would and earn rewards in the process. British Airways Executive Club members can benefit from this when shopping with some top brands, learn more here. If you believe this solution may be the key ingredient your loyalty offering is missing, be sure to get in touch to learn how we can help.

In alignment with the pillars we’ve just mentioned, it’s efficient, its seamless and it was implemented with our members in mind. We’re passionate about loyalty and our aim is to discover more and more ways we can leverage technology to improve the experiences of our members.

If you’d like to learn more from IAGL on the topic of loyalty, you can find more here.


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