Business is never just business. A good business provides us with a solution to a problem we are facing and handles it with utmost care to ensure our happiness and satisfaction. Major brands like Dove, Nestle, Apple and more have stayed ‘in business’ not only because they make great products but by keeping their consumer interactions real, personal and engaging. In short, when communication takes the form of a real conversation, things click.
Image : shutterstock
In the digital age, many businesses have resorted to sitting behind glaring screens, responding to customer complaints and compliments alike as per straightjacketed guidelines or mandates. The result is that the customer assumes any and every form of such communication as an auto-response. This assumption can play havoc for your business in the long run because it lacks what is popularly referred to as ‘the personal touch’. It feels cold and even unnecessary. Marcus Moufarrige, chief operating officer at Servcorp, expertly sums up the need for the personal touch in business, “While embracing technology can help us get more done, we also need to recognise that when used in haste, it can make your client or prospect feel like just another item on your to-do list.”(As stated in The Sydney Morning Herald) Restricting the use of online response mechanisms, therefore, can prove more beneficial than you can imagine.
The internet has served a great purpose, but it doesn’t come without a trace of irony. While it has brought the world closer than ever, it has made people wander away from each other as well. When you don’t see the person you are chatting with or don’t hear the sound of their voice, you can never truly gauge their intentions. Businesses are no different. They must be seen and heard in order to be felt and accepted.
Today, products outnumber people. It’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the drift. With hundreds of options to choose from, variety has created a dent in the business-customer relationship. The key differentiator or the glue that will keep the customer stuck to your product is loyalty, and this isn’t easy to establish. To be on top of the customer’s mind, you must also be at their front door, office mess, birthday celebrations and so on. Be everywhere as long as you are not seen as an intrusion to their normal course of life. By being where the customer is, you can establish yourself as a reliable brand – a brand that exists in person and not just as an ‘emotionless’ entity that lives only in the words of an email. In short, think of loyalty as a product, which in order to be bought, must be seen and felt first.
Would you buy a medicine for your children if you received an email telling you so? No. You wouldn’t. In fact, no caring parent would. They’d prefer to visit a doctor or have one visit them, sit through the check-up and then go to the pharmacy to buy the prescribed medicine. Even if the medicine suggested by the doctor matches the one they received via email, parents would still fix an appointment in order to ‘see’ the doctor. Brands, in a certain sense are like therapists or doctors. They prescribe cures for boredom, excitement, time management, getting a cab, ordering a cake and so on. But if your business gives importance to technology over humanology, chances are it will eventually lose its grip on customers.
According to American educator and author Ed Fuller, “The deeper the bond between customer and service or product provider, the harder it is to break, and, over time, the more satisfying the relationship becomes for both parties.” What goes around comes around. If you choose digital communication over real communication, you can be rest assured of constructing a bridge that is destined to collapse.
It’s unfortunate how often we forget that businesses are people first. They are run by people, for people. Therefore, they are living breathing organisms that thrive on personal touch. Care, affection and warmth are human-centric solutions that precede the product-centric solutions that your business may actually offer. These virtues cannot and will not be found in an email or a social media update. They are found in open conversations, friendships and care that can be seen and felt.