It seems like in every ‘business’ discussion, there is no escape to mentioning the emergence of technology and how it is currently changing the customer experience, let alone the future experience. 

While I personally love technology and how it enabled me as a consumer, especially when it comes to saving my time, I still believe in the importance of the human factor. 

I love it when I complete all the services online, and God only knows how much I hate calling customer service. I love it when I buy heavy items online but hate it when I can’t return them. 

I also love it when I interact with a friendly face, let’s say when buying coffee. Sometimes a simple hello, a smile and my misspelled name in a takeaway cup make my day. 

Which reminds me to ask you…

Are you a Starbucks person or a Costa coffee person?

It’s all coffee, right? Still, at the end of the day, we have different preferences, maybe due to the association with the brand or the actual quality of the coffee… But, I guess that’s a discussion for another time. 

You see, commuting is kind of part of my job, and so my colleagues and I sometimes stop for coffee on the way. 

Here is the thing: If you buy Starbucks, you will get it from the machine, but if you opt for Costa, you will interact with someone to get your coffee. 

As I am a Starbucks person, I would opt for the machine, which I thought is actually pretty cool. What surprised me though, was that the price didn’t decrease. Isn’t there some overhead for hiring someone to smile to my face and misspell my name? That’s a question to Starbucks.

Another colleague of mine is also a Starbucks person — and buys his coffee from the Starbucks coffee machine, requiring zero interaction with another human being. 

However, one of our other colleagues is a Costa coffee person, and so he opts for buying coffee from the coffee shop — requiring him to interact with another person. 

I thought, well, we all just have different preferences and moved on with my life. I didn’t stop and think about it until a third colleague pointed out that he who chose to buy the Costa coffee was leaving with a charming smile on his face, while he who bought the Starbucks coffee from the machine was not enjoying his coffee as much. None of them had a bad day (yet… haha), we were just starting off. 

A little human interaction made a difference in the emotional state of the consumer. It might not be the most efficient method in terms of cost and/or time, but hey, he left with a smile on his face… and isn’t that a good enough incentive? 

It goes without saying that the staff working in Costa would have at least smiled— and that smile doesn’t come without influence. 

Read: 3 Reasons smiling is not bad for you

Otherwise, if the staff is rude, it doesn’t come without a high price ticket. A pissed customer might go to lengths to get his “revenge”. 

The below experiment by Dan Ariely mentioned in Roger Dooley’s book, Brainfluence, could show, how simple mistreatment could impact the behavior of consumers. 

“Like many of Ariely’s experiments, this one was deceptively simple. Subjects were recruited with a promise of a $5 payment for completing a brief task. To measure their attitude toward the researcher (or research organization), the researcher “accidentally” overpaid each subject by a few dollars at the end of the task in a way that the subject could easily pocket the difference. For half the subjects, the researcher explained the task and paid the subjects after it was complete. With the other subjects, he interrupted the explanation to take an unrelated and unimportant cell phone call and offered no explanation or apology when he resumed the instructions. In both cases he paid the subjects, suggested they count the money, and then moved away. Although the faux call took a mere 12 seconds, the rude treatment dramatically affected the subjects’ willingness to return the overpayment for the task. Whereas 45 percent of the regular group pointed out the error and returned the extra money, just 14 percent of the phone call group did so. A few seconds of rudeness, and the portion of honest customers dropped by two thirds.” — Dooley, Roger.

In short, if you are able to establish an emotional connection, it will come a long way. If, however, you weren’t able to, then, perhaps stick to the machines.

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