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The CX question that needs to be answered: ‘What would the human do?’

360 Magazine 
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The CX question that needs to be answered: ‘What would the human do?’

“Hi, welcome to Home Depot! How can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a nail.”

“What kind of nail are you looking for?”

“Something a bit longer — like about this long.”

“How about this one?”


“Okay, what kind of nail are you looking for?”

“One that’s shorter than that one, but still a bit longer.”

“How about this one?”


“Okay, what kind of nail are you looking for?”

By this point in the story, you’re probably guessing that the customer is not interacting with a Home Depot store associate, but a chatbot or some other kind of virtual assistant. But let’s talk about what gave it away.

While the above scenario is fictitious — I have never gone on the Home Depot site, so I don’t even know if they use chatbots — you’ll have noticed that the automated assistant kept coming back to the same question: What kind of nail?

Although it didn’t make it into the story I published earlier this week, there was a moment during the KustomerNOW virtual event last week where Qualtrics’ Luke Williams made a great point using this same scenario. In a physical, in-person situation, the store associate would have asked a better question to help the customer find their nail: “What are you trying to make?”

In the effort to push customers towards self-service, the algorithms being developed and the scripts being written can often overlook what seems like the more obvious approach to solving problems.

Williams put it this way: “When we see these big shifts in customer experience design, it often comes back to, ‘What would the human do?’”

When companies fall down in this area, I think it’s partly because they may not have completely thought through the research and purchasing points in the customer journey.

According to a CX report published Acquia this month, for instance, just over half, or 52 per cent, of the more than 800 marketers surveyed said their CMO is primarily driving the CX strategy. That would explain why 54 per cent said they are investing in marketing automation platforms and 43 per cent are adopting tools to personalize experiences.

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Most marketers I talk to will say their goals with these technologies is to get to know customers better so they can drive demand for more products. Personalization help determine customer preferences, and marketing automation ensures they’ll be bombarded with appeals to buy an item much like the last one they purchased.

That’s not what the humans do, if we’re talking about store associates.

In the Home Depot scenario, imagine if the chatbot or virtual assistant was “better” in the sense it didn’t keep asking what kind of nail the customer wanted, but kept suggesting a hoe, a rake or similar items because the customer picked up gardening supplies last time around.

Getting to “what are you trying to make?” — or “what would you like to do?” in the context of other brands — is admittedly tricky because it doesn’t always relate to what historical data will show. Nor does it always fit neatly into common questions a customer might ask when they look for after-purchase support.

What the human would do, in the ideal scenario, is learn.

Not for the sake of marketing to the customer and getting more share of wallet from them.

Not for the sake of hurrying them off the phone (or having them avoid calling altogether).

They learn to give the customer what they actually want.

That’s customer-centricity. And for CX leaders, that’s what you should be trying to make.

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