The Harvard Business Review article written by Rayport and Jaworski is aptly titled “Best Face Forward” because it sheds light on how customers view and interact with a company. In the past most business interaction between customers was performed in a face to face meeting where one party would present an item for sale and then the other would decide whether to purchase the item. In addition, if there was a problem with a purchased item then they would bring the item back to the person who sold the item for resolution.
One of my earliest examples of witnessing this was when I was around 6 or 7 years old and I was allowed to spend the summer in Tennessee with my Grandparents. My Grandfather had just written a book about the local history of his town and was selling them to his friends and local bookstores. I still remember he offered to pay me a small commission for every book I helped him sell because I was carrying the books around for him. Every sale he made was face to face with his customers which allowed him to share his excitement for the book with everyone.
In today’s modern world there is less and less human interaction as the use of computers and other technologies allow us to communicate within seconds even though both parties may be across the globe or just next door. That being said, customers view a company through multiple access points called faces that represent the ability to interact without actually seeing a human face. As a software engineer this is a good and a bad thing because direct human interaction and technology based interaction have both good and bad attributes based on the customer.
How organizations coordinate business and IT functions, to provide quality service varies based on each individual business and the goals and directives put in place by its management.
According to Rayport and Jaworski, the type of interaction used through a particular access point may lend itself to be people-dominate, machine-dominate, or a combination of both. The method by which a company communicates information through an access point is a strategic choice that relates costs and customer outcomes. To simplify this, the choice is based on what can give the customer the best experience interacting with the company when the cost of the interaction is also a factor. I personally see examples of this every day at work. The company website is machine-dominate with people updating and maintaining information, our groups department is people dominate because most of the customer interaction is done at the customers location and is backed up by machine based data sources, and our sales/member service department is a hybrid because employees work in tandem with machines in order for them to assist customers with signing up or any other issue they may have.
The positive and negative aspects of human and machine interfaces are a key aspect in deciding which interface to use when allowing customers to access a company or a combination of the two. Rayport and Jaworski also used MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson preliminary catalog of human and machine strengths. He stated that humans outperform machines in judgment, pattern recognition, exception processing, insight, and creativity. I have found this to be true based on the example of how sales and member service reps at my company handle a multitude of questions and various situations with a lot of unknown variables. A machine interface could never effectively be able to handle these scenarios because there are too many variables to consider and would not have the built-in logic to process each customer’s claims and needs.
In addition, he also stated that machines outperform humans in collecting, storing, transmitting and routine processing. An example of this would be my employer’s website. Customers can simply go online and purchase a product without even talking to a sales or member services representative. The information is then stored in a database so that the customer can always go back and review there order, and access their selected services. A human, no matter how smart they are would never be able to keep track of hundreds of thousands of customers let alone know what they purchased or how much they paid.
In today’s technology driven economy every company must offer their customers multiple methods of accessibly in order to survive. The more of an opportunity a company has to create a positive experience for their customers, in my opinion, they more likely the customer will return to that company again. I have noticed this with my personal shopping habits and experiences.
- Rayport, J., & Jaworski, B. (2004). Best Face Forward. Harvard Business Review, 82(12), 47-58. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.