As technology keeps advancing, the gap between in-person customer service and the online customer experience is closing. While there is still no substitute for the personal experience that comes from dealing with another human being, some websites are employing very personalized tactics.
To illustrate my point, I'll relate two recent experiences that highlight the similarities:
As I walked into Total Hockey, a store that sells hockey equipment, I was approached by my regular salesman, who said something like this: «Hi, Shep, how have you been? Hope you are enjoying that new stick you bought last month and scoring lots of goals. The last time you were here you were looking at some new skates. Are you still interested? We have them in your size. We also got in some new skates that you might be interested in.»
He always offers a great customer experience by remembering what I bought and what I'm interested in, and the personalized service is spot-on.
Now, to compare an online shopping experience, I log on to Amazon.com. I am greeted by a message that reads, «Hello, Shep. Welcome back.» The page displays books and products that I might be interested in based on items that I have viewed in the past and purchases that I have made.
The similarities in the two experiences are apparent. Both are customized to my personal tastes and experiences. At both Total Hockey and Amazon.com I am shown new items that correspond to my interests. There are many other websites that deliver this kind of experience, as do salespeople in other types of stores.
No matter where you find it — online or in person — a customized experience is an example of amazing customer service. It makes the customer feel valued and appreciated. Companies are now able to track a customer's buying patterns and offer a digital experience that mirrors the in-person experience.
Ultimately, people do business with people. In the recent past, online shopping sites may not have been able to offer a personalized customer experience. But, websites are designed by people for people and with advances in technology they are bringing the real world and the digital world closer than ever.
There are some aspects of person-to-person encounters that remain out of the reach of the digital experience — phone calls, hand-written thank you notes, conversations about other interests. For the best in customer service, utilize the technology that is available to its fullest, but don't let it shut out a truly personal connection and customer service experience.