The Downside of Digitized Customer Service

In Customer Experience by Kevin KellyLeave a Comment

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Digitizing customer service provides prospects and problems for customer experience.

Last night, a few colleagues and I went to Boston for business. We rented a car from Hertz—a quaint four door Nissan in a sultry blue. Renting the car was a breeze but have you rented from Hertz lately? You basically video chat with a customer service agent as he or she walks you through the rental process—scans your license, charges your credit/debit card, and prints out the rental agreement. Then, who gives you the key?

Apparently, at this Canal and Greene St. location, it's a busy and multi-tasking parking lot attendant. In this sense, your rental experience is administered by an employee who is simultaneously playing Jenga and Rubik's Cube with other cars and I'd assume, working for another company. It appears that Hertz is willing to bet on the kiosk video-chat customer experience and leave the physical customer service up to the parking station attendant. But is this individual employed by Hertz and upheld to the same customer service or do they just collect the ‘lease' for Hertz placing cars and kiosks at their locations?

Digital customer service kiosks let Hertz lower wait times for customers and also cuts employee HR costs by housing all employees in one video-chatting place. Unfortunately, I don't think the parking attendants are trained up to the usual Hertz standard: they're not too friendly, we had to wait on the street for 5 minutes before returning the car, and they were not helpful when we wanted to clean out the car. I don't necessarily fault the employees or Hertz but rather, the general trend of digitization—customer service is increasingly digitizing and outsourcing to third party vendors not directly linked to the companies or brands. This makes the real, true, physical face of Hertz a parking lot attendant without much apparent devotion to the company itself.

Moving forward, I encourage companies to be careful digitizing customer service. I already Skype with my friends and video chat with my family, so when I get a company treating me personally in the real world, I truly value it. There is still nothing better or memorable than face to face customer service.

[PHOTO: Flikr RiverNotario]

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