The Fate Of Customer Service: Are Face-To-Face Interactions Going The Way Of The Dinosaur?

Amazon has recently dipped its toe into the healthcare industry through its acquisition of PillPack, a small company that packages, organizes, and delivers prescriptions.

Competitors such as Walgreens and CVS Health are taking a stand against the online mogul by stressing their face-to-face connections to patients — because, when it comes right down to it, the only thing that brick-and-mortar stores have over faceless corporations like Amazon is just that: a face. Since 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, there’s a solid chance that it will be enough to keep them thriving.

“With a physical presence in almost every community across the country, we have the unique ability to meet patients where they are and provide the care and services they need either face to face or with the unique set of virtual and physical delivery service capabilities that extends our physical presence in real time to meet their needs,” CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo told analysts on the company’s second quarter earnings call. “You see, it’s not simply about selling products. It’s about delivering quality care and driving superior outcomes, both of which require expertise that our clients and members have come to trust.”

In addition to emphasizing their interpersonal relationships with customers and patients, both CVS Health and Walgreens are making big moves: Walgreens established a digital marketplace this summer that links customers with medical care providers (and their prices) that goes far beyond the services offered within the drugstore, and CVS Health expects its acquisition of Aetna, a huge health insurance company, to allow their locations to provide even more services. CVS Health already possesses over 1,100 MinuteClinics (walk-in clinics that offer treatments, vaccinations, and health screenings seven days a week) staffed by nurse practitioners; the companies each have relationships with the medical care providers in their region, ensuring that care is delivered “in the right place, in the right amount, and at the right time.”

Many businesses can benefit from implementing face-to-face customer experiences; considering the fact that 99.7% of businesses in the U.S. are defined as small businesses, it could mean the difference between staying afloat and being pulled under by Amazon’s (and similar companies’) wake. A report on Forbes which looked at the under performance of sales reps (57% of them did not meet their quotas last year) brought the explanation down to a simple matter of improving customer experience, with one major understanding: “With all the convenience of technology, people still want the human connection.”

This includes all relationships within a company, whether they’re business-to-consumer or business-to-business. Approximately 51% of exhibitors at trade shows stated that they valued the opportunity to meet face-to-face with prospects and customers; the ability to look the person in the eye inspires a natural, authentic exchange that creates a positive customer experience. There’s a reason real estate is one of the industries with the happiest customers — it does what Amazon and other online retailers cannot: it relies on its intimate, face-to-face relationships with customers to make a profit.