Business Monday

My View: In a digital age, one-on-one service remains relevant

Virtually any business today — banking, buying just about anything .  . even getting a loan — can be conducted online. But that doesn’t mean an end to one-on-one, personalized service.

I’m an avid runner, always planning my next competitive event. Running shoes and gear are important to me, so I do online research to compare shoes and prices. Although big sports stores might offer the best prices, I gravitate to local stores, FootWorks or Runner’s High, because I know my online experience will be enhanced when I visit the store. Employees will personally fit my shoes and videotape me on a treadmill to ensure my stride is what it should be.

Personalized customer service influences my choice. In fact, the personal touch might be more important than ever — especially online — where switching loyalties is just a swipe away.

Face it: We live in a world dominated by digital technology. If we’re not dealing with continuous streams of emails and texts, we’re filling a need for immediate gratification or being bombarded by content overload.

It’s hard for businesses to be heard, much less stand out, amid all the interruptions. That’s where the personal touch helps. Just how much was reinforced by Zebra Technology’s 2015 Global Shopper Study, which found 76 percent of shoppers are positive about in-store experiences because customer service is highly valued.

Technology and personalized experiences are not mutually exclusive. Adding something personal to virtual commerce creates more ways to improve our connections with a wider range of consumers via online interactivity, mobile accessibility and customized responses and recommendations. In effect, online experiences, or “journeys,” can be facilitated and made more enjoyable.

Everybody’s aware of how fast technology operates. Using it makes sense to deliver the simplified, speedier, repetitive transactions clients typically prefer to do “self-serve.” In this respect, digital technology helps optimize efficiency by adding value for end-users and businesses alike. Additionally, companies can, and should, use technology to emphasize their own key “people” elements by tailoring every one of those regular interactions to each client.

Being successful in this new omni-channel playing field requires lots of individualized data and ongoing attention — for example, a personal touch. But the definition of personalized customer service is changing as shopping habits evolve.

More and more, it’s come to mean providing a seamless service transition from desktop to mobile to in-store experience. When done right, customers feel special, they come back for more and, most important, tell others — all of which increases the bottom line. Starbucks and Chipotle nationally, and Panther Coffee locally, excel at this evolution of technology and personal experience converging into one.

I am intrigued by Beepi, an online preowned car-buying/selling company that recently launched in South Florida. For most of us, car-buying experiences are far from pleasurable, but this company hopes to change that. It’s easy — shopping is online, prices are guaranteed and delivery is free. What I found interesting is that each new car arrives wrapped with a bow. That was unexpected. It’s a great example of combining technology with a personalized experience.

My expertise extends mainly to the financial sector. However, just as banks and credit unions are positioned to deliver both digital and personal touches to customers, so are boutiques and big-box stores. For us, it means customizing how products, services and payment methods fit with other financial decisions, while facilitating and orchestrating the seamless integration among all to provide the ultimate personal experience while leveraging technology. For others, it might mean personalizing sales to what customers find most appealing or showing how a purchase enhances or benefits their lifestyle.

For the most part, technology is not unique. What is unique is finding ways to incorporate technology while still providing personal experiences. It’s today’s lesson plan for success: Show people how the value and personal attention you provide is better than everyone else.

Simply put: Make the consumer feel special.

Allan Prindle is president and CEO of Power Financial Credit Union, a community-based, member-

owned institution that has branches in Florida City, Miami, Pembroke Pines, Florida City and Juno Beach. www.powerfi.org.

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