Digital Services — still Human

Mobile Era





Traditional services were by definition involving a lot of human interactions. In fact, the more personal attention, the better the services were considered. A 5* hotel has more staff; high-worth clients have a personal contact while lower-worth go through a call center, etc.






Times are changing, in fact customer preferences are changing fast. For a great deal, we have mobile devices to thank (some people say blame) for that. Just have a look at the picture on the left. Get the difference?

Companies have to work really hard to keep up with customers who now possess superpowers (as Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff put it) :


They’re informed and insightful, feel empowered, value based buyers who are in a constant evaluation of your company, brand and service.


In short, they expect anticipate their need in every touchpoint and to be treated highly individual. This inevitably causes service to become Digital First, or in most cases Mobile First to be precise.

I had the pleasure to be able to work for a whole week with Prof. David Rogers on digital strategies. His 5 strategy framework provides a good basis to look at the possibilities for digital transformation of the customers’ journey and experience.


1. Access : enable customers to move through their journey any time, ‘be always on’ , at least only when it’s relevant. Like Walmart who has an ‘In-store website’, their website when you open it from inside a store.

2. Engage: inform and inspire to either engage or eliminate any possible doubts in a touchpoint, specifically the use of visual content as instruction videos.

3. Customize: give me choices for my -sometimes very personal, niche- needs AND -mostly- make it easer to choose: guide me with choice schemes or reviews I can trust.

4. Connect : social customer service : before all other, listen in on the conversation customers have and learn about facilitate the conversation through their experience en let them help and service each other
Like the accounting software company Intuit, connecting accountants, not just on the use of Intuit software, but on how to deal with complex or rare tax situations.

5. Collaborate: open up and invite customers to co-construct your company. Appeal to their passions or self expression or give them a chance to take a share of the profits.

The consequences of applying these strategies for the internal organisation are big, really big. One of the most important is: ‘what happens with the people when mobile goes first?’


Apart from the bigger macro-economic questions and the social con-sequences of this question, a couple of things are clear.

First off all, also these digital interactions need to be deeply human. While there is a strong customer preference shift towards self-service, nobody wants to feel as if there is no human being behind the computer on the other side.

Second, service is no longer after-sales-service, service is before-during-and-after-sales-service , so it can’t be in one department.

Third, companies need to be there for an immediate personal interaction whenever things go wrong. This means all employess need to really care for the customer as a person and they need to ‘Get to yes’: get whatever problem the customer has sorted out in the best possible way. Unlike these hilarious takes from ‘Little Britain’

By Jürgen Tanghe