Is automation leading to poor customer service?

29 June 2015 By Northern Lights

Is automation leading to poor customer service? image


Good customer service is very subjective. What one person loves, another can hate.

I have recently started to feel bombarded with emails from a few companies who, in theory, are just doing a great job of keeping me informed. But they are too chatty and emailing me at too many stages of the order.

I can’t decide. Am I just being frumpy, is this really excellent service or have we got a growing problem that automating the whole customer service process is starting to make it poor customer service?

I really noticed this when I ordered two lots of flowers on the same day to two different people – and got six emails back.

I ordered the flowers through which does quite stylish whites and greens and is great at delivering when they say – I’ve used them before.   And their service on the face of it is really friendly and helpful and they try to personalise it all. But is it too much? Is this full on emailing really good service?

The first email was the usual confirmation – except it is all a bit over-jolly. A bit American?


Then the next day I got an email at 9am to say ‘your flowers are on their way’. Now this is the one that I think is over the top. I don’t need to know they are being packed – I just want to know they were delivered.

And this is another over-the-top email with phrases like ‘your order is being chauffeured in style’ – well it isn’t, it’s in a van. I have no problem with these flowers being delivered in a van, but let’s not pretend it is something different. And all this chat about having to ‘outwit a snarl of traffic and make stops en route’ – do we care? Does it add to the service?

Serenata 2

And then finally at 3pm I get the confirmation of the order. But again, nothing simple about this email, it’s all gushing ‘have your ears been ringing, chances are because someone’s thinking of you …etc’.

Serenata 3

And then the final one – from Feefo on their behalf, asking for feedback on the order. I deleted this one as I was getting irritated – and no, I didn’t give any feedback.

But is this being mean?

Evaluation is a critical part of any business and we build it into all the work we do with clients. We do evaluation forms for all our workshops and the feedback is invaluable to ensure we are hitting the spot, what we could improve and ideas as to what clients would like for another time. Over the years we have employed independent consultants to ring our clients and discuss the service they are getting and they have kindly given time and thought to helping us get our service right.

One of the fundamentals in our Northern Lights’ business values is to deliver first class customer service which we define as problem solving, anticipating client needs and forewarning clients if we can’t deliver something when expected.

So on the one hand we advocate letting the customer know what is happening, ensuring they are happy with what they got and following up after.

Yet somehow these emails aren’t working – for me anyway. Is it because it is unnecessary information, clogging up an over-full email box?

I like the typical emails from M&S, John Lewis etc – a quickie summary to confirm your order and then one when it has been delivered or is in store. No gushing, just facts.

Our client, Pat Chapman-Pincher, worries that corporates are bringing in ‘intelligent automation’ without thinking through consequences. Her concerns are about much bigger picture issues such as the impact on jobs, profitability structures, the need for new ways to build skills at the top.

Another client of ours, Julian Rawel of Market Echoes, did a great blog on big data and artificial intelligence – advocating that marketeers keep really focused on the customer and not the data.

It strikes me that there are some really fundamental issues here for management and marketing teams to look at who decides what to ping to customers and when, so that emails add value and don’t irritate on the way.

What are your views? Do you like these chatty, frequent emails – or do you prefer the basics? Is automation an opportunity or a growing problem for marketing teams? Or both?!

PS if you want to know who Cara Barnes is, check out her website Cara Barnes Lifestyle


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