CREATING CONNECTION IN AN AUTOMATED WORLD
Sharing thoughts on connection, with a nod and apologies to Bob Seger.
Have you ever tried to connect with your customer, and felt like you missed the mark? Or, you’re a client, and you’re just not being heard. The invisible barrier is up and operational, and boy, is it real.
We’ve all been there, right? Both on the issuing and receiving end, when we weren’t sure if it was an actual human or a technological marvel we were dealing with. Yes, bots can be interactive and efficient, but the limitations are emphatically there. Connecting through communications may have changed dramatically through technology, but the basic human principles of listening, authentic voice and yes, occasionally, a good laugh, still matter.
FEEL LIKE A NUMBER
It’s a difficult balancing act when you are communicating with a business objective in mind, but - and let’s not forget - it is our fellow human we are dealing with. No one likes feeling like a number, another spoke in a great big wheel*, part of someone’s workflow, or a statistic. Yet, to deal effectively in business communications is to engage in mass dialogue, yet somehow keep the human intact. The key is balance, and the smart use of a few communications strategies.
*For those of you wondering if I’m less-than-adroitly slipping in a reference to Bob Seger’s classic tune “Feel Like a Number,” why, yes, yes I am. Rock on, then continue to read.
The goal is to have the courage to allow yourself to shine through your communications in a way that’s straightforward and honest. You and your team represent the company, and how you engage is a direct reflection upon your enterprise. So don’t completely rely on efficiency and automation in your communications. Keep the needs of the customer foremost, and be responsive to their concerns.
Case in point: I was dealing with a cloud-based property management company for a small property I own. I had some concerns around how they were listing and pricing my rental property. For every question I had, the company answered with “that is how our algorithm works.” After the third go-round with that particular customer service lead balloon, I let them know that I wasn’t working with them to serve the algorithm, but to secure renters. The relationship ended there. Had they stepped away from a company-first communication mode and focused on my needs as a customer, they might still be collecting revenues from me today.
With that slightly grumpy example in mind, here are a few tips for sharing the human side of yourself, and your company, in your communications effort:
Simply replying in a timely manner to a concern or question will often put your company far ahead of competitors.
Customer loyalty is critical, and responsive communications is at the core of this relationship dynamic. Studies have shown that companies who meet the service expectations of their customers have a much higher degree of customer retention. For a growing enterprise, it can be easy and tempting to simply not respond, but, in a social world, that sense of disconnect can be shared swiftly and loudly with others.
REAL PEOPLE. REAL CONNECTION
Automation should be used judiciously, if at all. We’ve all been routed through automated systems, and can agree that relationship dynamics falter with every “push nine for customer service” recorded message we have to sift through in our quest for a real person.
This is good rule of thumb for in-person services as well. Let’s face it, people usually prefer to deal with a real human as opposed to a machine. Make sure your team understands this and that you model this person-first interaction. Even when using automated responses, taking the time to create a sense of your enterprise’s voice will help foster a sense of connection, and understanding of what your company stands for. Inviting customers and community to a "conversation and education" event, whether online or in person, also helps build interaction and connection.
VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER
Your customers and clients are part of your voice as well, and very important ones. Whether you invite them along to share in case studies, testimonials or presentations, hearing the credible third party voice of your satisfied customer is a powerful, personalized way to connect.
Advertising and company interaction can make powerful use of humorous imagery to help foster a sense of connection and the human aspect of the brand. Exhibit “A” is the iconic Old Spice brand. This scent and toiletries brand has created a hilarious, and memorable, campaign that humanizes even as it manages to sell its product. Did I say manage? I meant “crush.” Old Spice has crushed it with its campaign series. We applaud, even as we laugh. And buy.
Many studies show that humorous magazine advertisements tend to outperform their less-humorous counterparts. At the very least, this study shows that a potential customer will notice and remember your advertisement if a humorous approach lends itself to your company brand (note: humor is not for every company, but when it is used correctly and in context, it is a powerful connector of brand and human).
Questions about how to humanize your industry thought leadership and communication? We are happy to answer questions, let’s connect. firstname.lastname@example.org.