Have you ever solved your problem with the British airways chatbot? I certainly haven’t. It’s a trivial, and perhaps first-world gripe, but it was a startling experience to struggle with what should have been a straightforward problem as a result of clunky tech.
It’s become the norm to be turned to the “live chat” function on websites. Everything from makeup brands to travel companies are using it as a mechanism to try and solve the simpler problems and prevent clogged up customer service lines. In a country with such a thriving tech industry, are they the best we can do?
True, I could have called BA to change the date of a flight booking, but with the efficiency of most websites and the frequency with which the query must come up, I assumed it would be a simple task. Once I did find a human to fix my problem, it was quickly resolved.
There is a paradox at play here. In the UK we have a thriving tech scene competing with the US and China on the global tech stage. Yet, why are so many businesses still lagging when using technology to solve customer problems? Technology algorithms can be efficient, and customers are often much happier using online tools, but businesses with legacy infrastructure often struggle to incorporate effective technology.
For clients and customers to interface through a website or app, it is a fundamental requirement that the online experience works. British Airways’ website is notoriously slow and the user journey, as I experienced, can often be problematic. Travelling to the Netherlands earlier this year, I needed to upload Covid documents – as many of us did at the time. On both legs of the journey, the “submit” button didn’t work, so I duly brought the paperwork with me to the check-in counter, wasting not just my own time, but British Airways’.
There is no excuse for a user experience to be a burden. Companies must question whether the tech enabling their online experience is adding value or simply sending customers down rabbit holes with a chatbot.
The UK’s digital skills crisis is in part to blame. There’s an acute shortage of diverse talent and experienced workers who are skilled in user interface and user design. Businesses need to develop these capabilities – they can learn from the tech startups and scaleups who embed this capability from day one. If the nation’s flagship airline can’t make it work, what does that say about our place in the world?
Starling Bank, Revolut and Monzo – some of the leading UK fintech companies – have all “cracked the code” to provide a seamless user experience with limited human interaction. These businesses, as well as many other startups and scaleups, have done a great job of recruiting talent who can build capabilities from the ground up, incorporate cloud services to help with storage and spikes in demand and build solid cyber platforms to enable greater customer confidence with secure data transmission. In other words, you can open a bank account with an app, but you can’t change the date of your flight.
Tech can be the real differentiator in transforming the customer experience, and companies have a responsibility to make sure it is deployed properly from end to end. Businesses of all sizes must continue to invest in the digital transformation that will enhance their own brand and Britain’s reputation as an efficient leader in tech.