Revamping Your 2020 Customer Service Model Through Operational Transparency

Matt Wujciak

Operational Transparency

As I stated in a previous article, research by psychologist Kurt Gray shows that we enjoy a massage from a massage chair more when a human controls the massage mechanism than when a machine does. Another study of Gray’s shows that people prefer the taste of candy that others have selected for them intentionally, rather than randomly. 

Instilling the human touch in a digital era

Gray’s studies are simple but they suggest an emerging trend in consumer behavior that few services are effectively providing; the human touch. When it comes to dynamic customer experience models, businesses might want to individualize services for customers, but they feel as if it’s just too costly, or not practical. 

Read More: The Psychology Behind Personalized Customer Experience

Customer service departments feel as if they need to make a tradeoff between the efficiency of automation and self-service, and the personalization of the human touch. But this tradeoff is a false perception, not reality. There are indeed ways to fuse humanity and technological efficiency.

When customers use an ATM to withdraw money from their BBVA bank accounts in Spain, the ATM’s full-color screen displays visual representations of the currency being counted, sorted, and arranged for distribution. 

At most Starbucks drive-through locations in the United States, the intercom has been replaced with a video monitor and camera system. When customers place an order, they come face-to-face with the barista as he or she rings up the order and marks instructions on each cup. 

At Domino’s, customers can use the company’s Pizza Tracker app to watch as the kitchen workers prep, bake, and package the pizza for delivery (the same tracking concept first popularized by Amazon shipments in the previous decade). 

NPR and the New York Times podcast The Daily are connecting listeners and readers with the otherwise obscure work involved in researching, producing, and delivering the headlines of the day. NPR posts live feeds from its studios, and The Daily interviews the paper’s own reporters. 

These examples given by Ryan W. Buell, UPS Foundation Associate Professor of Service Management at the Harvard Business School in a recent study, all have one emerging trend in common, operational transparency. 

The Harvard dining experiment

So what does Spain’s second largest financial institution, successful U.S. fast food restaurants, and one of the largest media enterprises in the world all know that we don’t? Why are they tapping into this new idea of operational transparency throughout different stages of customer service? 

Read More: How The WSJ Designed Their Customer Experience Strategy

In 2012, Beull and some colleagues ran an experiment in the Annenberg Hall dining facility at Harvard, which serves more than 3,000 meals every day. Annenberg was built in the late 1800s at a time when it was considered ill-mannered for diners to be able to see the work taking place in the kitchen. The chefs can’t see the customers, and the customers can’t see the chefs.

“We installed iPads with video-conferencing software—one at the order station, in view of the customers, and another in the kitchen, in view of the chefs. We then timed how long it took to make various dishes and measured both chef and diner satisfaction. When we turned on the iPads in a way that allowed only the chefs to see their customers, customer satisfaction with the food rose 14%. When we turned on the iPads so the customers could see the chefs too, satisfaction went up 22%, and the chefs worked 19% faster. One chef told us, ‘When [the customers] can see us [make their food], they appreciate it, and I appreciate that. It makes me want to improve.’”

When customers saw the chefs cooking their food, they perceived that more effort went into serving them, they appreciated the effort, and they valued the service more. 

When the chefs could see their customers—the people who were benefiting from their efforts—the work they were doing seemed more appreciated and impactful, making them more satisfied with their jobs and more willing to exert effort to enhance the dining experience for their customers. 

Giving consumers clarity

The experiment demonstrates the same virtuous cycle that Kurt Gray pointed out in choosing a friend’s candy or manually controlling the mechanisms of a massage chair.  

Read More: 8 CX Design & Strategy Trends You Need To Know

As automation will continue to be a driving factor in 2020 customer service, use technology not only for efficiency, metrics, and operational productivity, but enhance customer experiences through operational transparency.

Give customers clarity and piece of mind throughout different stages of service production or product development. 

Make 2020 the year you achieve success with your customers.