We really don’t need an app for everything
By Calton Nhando, digital consultant at IndigoCube

The answer isn’t as simple as you may think. The truth is that the world is in love with digital. It’s true. There’s an app for everything. Truly, there’s an app called K-Blocker for iOS. It blocks all Kardashian-related content while browsing on your phone using Safari.

But digital’s ubiquitousness doesn’t mean that digital answers all the customer experience questions, meets every customer need and desire, nor maximises customer loyalty.

Sure, there’s a pizza place that lets people use Facebook Messenger to order their favourite rounded meal, an AI platform that any company can use for customer service on WhatsApp, and car manufacturers are connecting more cars to the Internet for, get this, parcel delivery, among other uses. There’s even an Italian port that issues policies, taxes, freight accounts, and shipping manifests digitally.

But I also know of a medical administrator that maintains a fleet of huge digital printers in Johannesburg because a large portion of its older customers prefer hardcopy, snail mail to e-mail.

While it may seem that we love digital we actually love better customer service. We love companies that seem to know us and understand us better, companies that can better meet our needs, and companies that can provide the services we crave in ways that improve our lives.

Digital is simply a means to that end.

Digital on its own often ticks the right boxes. It means using software to make processes faster. Things like you can now pay bills via an app instead of driving to then queueing in a bank after completing a slip of paper you hand to a clerk. Those weren’t the days. And we
no longer wait until 20:00pm or later on Thursdays to catch the long weather forecast for the coming weekend. Digital just puts the information in our pocket without having to think about it.

But apps, web browsers and chatbots don’t necessarily make us feel special. When Amazon mails me once a week and I see Fred Reichheld has a new book out on customer experience I get pretty excited. Or when I contact my favourite healthy lifestyle administrator via their
app and I get a real live human being call me back and they have the ability to grasp the complexities of my challenge – without me explaining it to them for the hundredth time – I’m very pleasantly surprised. Paradoxically, when the Facebook app on my phone begins
suggesting holiday destinations to a place I searched via Safari on my iPad I get suspicious.

Those are examples of digital solutions used to figure out more about me so that companies can offer me a unique experience. And that’s digital’s job, that’s what it’s good at and why it’s grabbing headlines. But sometimes I just want to talk to an actual human being, a lump
of flesh and blood with hopes and dreams and challenges, just like me.

Digital technologies have undeniably revolutionised the customer experience and they continue to do so. But analogue has its place, too.

A Salesforce Research survey found that three quarters of customers expect businesses to know and understand their needs and expectations. As many as 70% of us expect businesses to contextualise their interactions with us. And 50% of us want tailored interactions before we’ll give our money to a company.

The challenge is getting enough of the right data without going too far and ensuring the data is secured. The same survey found that 62% of us are worried that companies will end up compromising our personal data.

Digitalisation is absolutely crucial. Discovery isn’t in the process of launching a new bank with tens of thousands of tellers for good reason. But digitalisation for its own sake also serves little purpose. We could probably simply choose to not click any links to Kardashian-
related content.