For the past decade, our global social fabric has become obsessed with the idea of mobility and all things mobile-app related. It has affected everything from how we socialize to how we work—changing the very lifeblood of our global economy.
Similar to the impacts associated with social media—an inevitable disconnect from many types of human interaction—so is the new era of retail: systems put in place by many retailers who systematically remove the personal interaction and responsibility related to the customer experience. For instance, for every mobile app I try of late, if the app fails to deliver what is promised, there seems to be no one at the helm to either make it right or, at least, acknowledge the issue in the first place.
From McDonald’s to Tim Hortons to Uber, and more, their apps have failed me, taken my money, and left me to bear the cost and the burden of the failures inherent in their apps—and I dare say, I’m not alone. In fact, almost everyone I know who has tried the many new retail-oriented apps has a horror story about retailers blaming their apps, as well as the plausible deniability that seems to go hand in hand with that blame.
So, what’s to be done? If technology is supposed to make our lives better and easier, then why does it cause so much stress? The issue stems from how the world builds technology to begin with. As it pertains to the world of retail and hospitality, there appears to be a general consensus of “Let AI and automation do the work.” A prime example of this is the aforementioned McDonald’s app and the new look of the brick-and-mortar locations. The number of cash registers / human beings have all been replaced with touch-screen kiosks to apparently expedite ordering. And the app has been released to make ordering in advance easier. Both examples of removing the human element from the retail experience.
But in these cases, the customer experience has in fact worsened. From the cold, dead screen of the kiosk where no human interaction takes place, to the app, and beyond—the experience across the board for most of us is simply a shift from waiting in long lines to order food, to waiting in long lines to get the food—does that make it better? Hell no.
From a bottom-line perspective, I have no doubt that the finance departments of these establishments look at this new paradigm as a resounding win. They have cut staffing costs, added a perceived new and sexy technology, and played a PR game to make the world swallow the bitter pill. But that’s not what good customer engagement is meant to be.
With all of this new interactive technology, our world should for all intent and purposes be far more interactive. For us, when our company approaches new retail customers looking to improve their customer engagement strategy, we look at the true meaning of the project—customer engagement!
It’s not about saving money—it’s about creating a customer-centric environment whereby the experience is so good that the retailer garners more wallet-share, more marketshare and, ultimately, makes more money—all while making their customers really happy.
This reliance on technology and bad mobile apps needs to end now. It’s the antithesis of what customer engagement is meant to do and will result in more damage than it’s worth. If you think the likes of Amazon is a threat to a brick-and-mortar business, wait until the results come in that show the damage done by shitty technology and a bad customer experience.