Questions about artificial intelligence, automation, neuroscience, and technology enhancements dominate the conversations in boardrooms and team meetings across the world. How do we incorporate Alexa? What’s our Siri strategy? Is there a way to use Google Home in our business? While advances in technology are interesting and offer tremendous potential, many businesses are relying too heavily on automation and technology. Analog, personal touches are being forgotten when they are actually more effective today than at any other time in human history.
Our increasingly tech-driven world has become so cold and sterile that even the simplest act of personalization makes a huge statement. When team members at Tower, the industry leader in stand-up paddleboards, send out handwritten messages on notecards that feature a playful caricature of the employees and a shark (a nod to “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban), customers know they are getting something novel.
Zappos also uses analog personal communications with branded thank-you notes decorated with employee-created doodles. If a company with over $2 billion in annual revenue and thousands of call center representatives can empower every employee to add a personal touch to customer communications, every company on the planet should be creating more personalized interactions with customers.
While technology certainly has its place in business, advances in artificial intelligence and automation haven’t yet matched the heart, soul, and spirit of one-to-one human interactions.
Now Is the Best Time for Real Customer Relationships
Baby Boomers enjoy talking about bygone eras when handshakes served as contracts, and it was easy to walk to your nearest store and deal face-to-face with a helpful person. Although a complete return to yesteryear is unlikely, we must address the problem of stale, formulaic communications. All the algorithms and templates companies are using certainly increase operational efficiency, but at what cost? Without meaningful, personal, emotional connections, we’re losing the opportunity to stand out in a sea of corporate sameness.
The statistics support adopting more personalized communications when it comes to creating touchpoints between customers and business personnel. A survey from Verint polled 25,000 respondents across 12 countries and found that 79 percent of customers desire a direct a direct, personal, human interaction with a business.
Companies that focus on developing a branded personal touch can expect fantastic returns on their investment of time, effort, and money. The most obvious impact is increased business. When was the last time you gladly gave your money to an organization you didn’t like? People gravitate toward buying from places that make them feel heard and respected. Plus, when they have great experiences, they refer their favorite providers to friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers.
Another benefit to moving toward a personalized customer relationship is improved employee morale. All too often, employees spend their days going from meeting to meeting without feeling any sense of accomplishment. But employees who believe they are working for something beyond a paycheck get more excited. Employees who connect regularly with the humans they serve (their customers) feel much better about their work experience. They can feel good at the end of the day, knowing they’ve at least made a customer’s day by sending out a personalized thank-you note.
Get Your Dopamine Hit From Customer Appreciation
Want to make sure you’re leading the way when it comes to fostering personal relationships with the customers you’ve worked so hard to obtain? Try these three simple methods to give both your customers and employees a dopamine boost.
1. Send Handwritten Thank-You Notes
Did your mom make you write thank-you notes to your crazy aunt after every holiday? Mom was right (yet again). Those notes were important to your aunt, and if you start writing them to your customers, the same feel-good relationship will develop.
“But Joey,” you worry, “where do I find the time?” Start small. Commit to writing one note a week. Just one. After a few weeks of consistency, move to two notes a week — or if you’re feeling motivated, one every day! Your notes don’t have to be long; two short-and-sweet sentences that are genuine and unscripted will be fine. To encourage your team to participate, as well, set up a monthly customer appreciation luncheon. Feed your employees while they take 20 minutes to write handwritten letters to their favorite customers.
2. Keep Up With Your Customers
We live in an era when it is easier to know what your customers are thinking than at any other time in history. Social platforms make it convenient to find out what is happening in your customers’ lives. This allows you to comment on events in their personal lives when you are having a business-related interaction.
Preparing for an in-person meeting or a phone call with a customer? Spend five minutes on their social media profile to see what they’ve posted recently. Then, consider ways to work this information into the conversation in a way that feels natural and relevant. You should do this with your co-workers as well. I promise you’ll see an uptick in the number of meatier, more sincere conversations you have with them. By modeling this behavior internally with your team, you’ll automatically improve interactions with your customers, as everyone will get more comfortable with using personalized data points in conversations.
3. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
One of the easiest ways to personalize your communications with your customers is to call them by name. I know — it seems incredibly basic, yet it’s shocking how many companies miss this opportunity. I get great insight about the companies and individuals I interact with based on the name they use when interacting with me. While it’s not my legal name, I’ve been known as “Joey” my entire life. If someone uses another name, it’s very obvious that person hasn’t done his homework and that we don’t actually have a relationship.
If you know one of your customers is a loyal fan of a particular sports team, pay attention to how that team is performing, so you have yet another talking point to use when communicating with that customer. Anyone who knows me is aware of my fanatic fandom for my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. I remember very clearly when a client who went to the University of Southern California sent me a text message the morning of the annual Notre Dame vs USC football game and teasingly encouraged me to prepare to wallow in sorrow. Needless to say, I did my best to comfort him when Notre Dame produced yet another rousing victory.
This type of interaction, even when highlighting contrary beliefs or opinions that you have with your clients, moves the conversation into a more enjoyable arena, transitioning from transactional communications to personalized interactions.
The personal touch can’t be faked or automated. Only humans can truly facilitate the feel-good results that come from honest acts of caring and acknowledgment. In an era of increasingly high-tech communications, no-tech messages stand out in the marketplace. They will not only distinguish you from the competition, but they will also make your interactions more personalized and enjoyable.