Why brands struggle to harness technology


While many companies have reaped dividends from using emerging technologies to boost customer loyalty, far from all have found it smooth sailing. For example, nearly four in ten survey respondents say their firms have failed to capitalize on the advanced customer technologies they’ve deployed in recent years. The same number say that, although improving customer loyalty is recognized as business-critical, their firms have not yet invested sufficiently in it.

Technology troubles

We have not yet figured out how to use technology to nurture a stronger emotional attachment to our brand.

figure 7a

We’ve adopted several advanced technologies in recent years to help us build customer loyalty, but we’re not utilizing them to the fullest.

figure 7b

Increasing customer loyalty is critical for our business, but we’ve not yet invested enough to achieve that aim.

figure 7c

Figure 7: Share of respondents stating they “strongly” or “somewhat” agree with statements about the difficulties they experience in using technology to improve customer loyalty.


“For a lot of companies, using AI, predictive analytics and other emerging technologies with customers is still new,” says Sana Mohammed. “We’ve come a long way in [understanding how to use them], but there is still far to go.”

The survey shows that employee difficulties in adapting to new technologies form the most common barrier to making effective use of them to boost customer loyalty. Other barriers highlighted by the respondents are problems integrating new technologies with existing ones and the failure to create simple processes to help customers.

Those struggles manifest themselves in different ways but all lead to customer frustration, and potentially an erosion of the trust between customer and brand. “Using new technologies in customer interactions can backfire if, in the process, the brand’s values or its chief purpose get lost,” says Steven Bushong. “If customers perceive use of a new technology as a gimmick, their loyalty could come under question.”

Bradly Sax ascribes such struggles, at least in part, to short-sighted attitudes on the part of senior management. “Management too often see only the direct financial gains to be made, such as reduced costs of servicing customers. They lose focus on forward-looking aspects such as user experience. They should be asking, ‘How can the technology improve the user experience? How can human staff interact with it to ensure it is personable and the experience positive?’”


say their firms are not fully utilizing the technologies they’ve deployed to help build customer loyalty.

Soothing pain while building empathy and trust

Asked to identify their customers’ chief pain points when interacting with their companies, the surveyed executives most often cite the inability to speak or chat with a human agent in real time and the company’s failure to fulfil expectations for customer service or care.

Over one-third of survey respondents (37%) also say their company has not yet figured out how to use technology to nurture a stronger emotional attachment to their brand. Considerably more consumer goods producers and financial services providers struggle to build such attachment than do firms in other sectors.

When interactions go wrong

Figure 8: Chief pain points experienced by customers in their interactions with brands

Figure 8: Chief pain points experienced by customers in their interactions with brands.

While the human touch is vital to conveying empathy with customers, advanced technologies can make important contributions to such outcomes. Many respondents believe that better empathy skills training of contact center and other customer-service agents is an effective way of strengthening emotional attachments, but respondents say that technology-focused initiatives are also likely to be effective. These include better visualization of analytics insights about customer preferences, and technology or processes that minimize or eliminate the need for customers to repeat details they’ve already provided.

How to boost empathy

Figure 9: Effective steps companies can take to convey empathy with customers

Figure 9: Effective steps companies can take to convey empathy with customers.

Finally, companies need to learn how to strike the right balance between automated and human elements in customer interactions. As we showed in our Human connections report, while technologies such as AI are now capable of handling entire interactions with customers, consumers still want the option of speaking to a person.3

Companies must also understand that not all customer interactions require the most advanced technology. “Companies have to be careful about where they’re using newer technologies,” says Mohammed. “They can end up deploying a Lamborghini for a problem that doesn’t necessarily need a Lamborghini.”

McDonald’s: Finding the balance between human and machine

When McDonald’s launched digital kiosks as an in-store ordering channel, says Sana Mohammed, there was an assumption that the company would take staff out of the process. “That is absolutely not the case,” she says. “The kiosks are helpful in showing big, bold images of the products that we sell and typically lead to a lot more orders being sent to the kitchens, but we need our crew to be guest experience leaders [GELs].”

GEL is now a formal job role for in-store McDonald’s staff. As the title suggests, the GEL’s responsibility is to “manage the customer’s experience during their entire time in the restaurant,” says Mohammed.

“Were they welcomed? Were they able to have a conversation about what specifically they wanted? Were they quickly identified as a loyalty customer, and could they earn points and redeem a reward from the reward menu without difficulty? Did they have a personalized experience?”

The crew must bring the in-store technology to life for customers, says Mohammed. That happens through the ability of people to use the technology in ways that create better customer experiences. “I don’t think we will ever need fewer people,” she says. “We will, though, need people with the skills to create such experiences.”

Let's get started.