Part of what makes startups unique from other business ventures is that they usually have scalable technology. Consumers today are so obsessed with technology and the countless ways it can be applied to business that they often forget the importance of the unscalable elements like human interaction. As with anything in life, it is essential to have a balance of both human and technological interactions in addition to knowing how to use them effectively together.
Here are a few of the human elements that organizations struggle to scale alongside modern technology.
Engage Potential Customers
No matter how much technology we incorporate, people appreciate human interaction with attention to personal needs and interests. This is especially true when it comes to investing in business relationships that are meant to last for months or years. All day, we interact with computers and automated devices, but what if this was complemented by personal customer relations? Nothing in technology can replace the human aspect of personal connection and interaction. Engaging customers on a personal level is vital.
When you’re just starting out, nothing is better at securing a potential customer than personally engaging with them as you sell your product. Do a little research to locate ‘meet-and-greets’, or join associations and clubs whose members would be interested in your product. Then invite them to test your product, offer them an early release of your software, or entice them with a discount off your services. Everyone likes something for free, and it’s the best way to start the powerful channel of advertising “by word of mouth.”
The startups that truly have the biggest impact are the ones that prioritize personal contact with potential customers. In their early days, startups like Stripe and Airbnb engaged people with door-to-door sales and personal recruitment. Having real contact with those interested in your offer makes your company stand out in a crowd of automated production mills.
Implement a Ticket Process
Internal operations are just as important as customer-facing tasks. All too often, technological “solutions” enter the workforce to streamline efforts; but may come at the cost of isolating team members and breaking down the social connection that feeds a healthy work environment. It may seem tedious and never ending, but a simple “ticketing system” can be an important tool for keeping fluidity in the menial tasks of day-to-day business. It allows for everyone to be a part of the workflow. In this way, everyone knows what needs to get done and when. Ticketing systems can also be an invaluable tool for promoting communication skills by helping your employees build positive working relationships. Camaraderie is built among team members when there is an understanding among workers of their role, and other’s roles, in the larger picture and how they contribute to the overall success of the company.
Be Open to Feedback
Getting feedback from your customers is crucial for improving your product or services. Interpreting and understanding the feedback you receive, can help develop company-wide empathy for your customers. Therefore, feedback systems should not be handled by automation. Communication goes both ways: Just as you want to connect with your potential customers and existing clients on a personal level, you want each party to feel as if they can do the same. Who knows better than your customer how well -- or not so-well -- your business is fulfilling their needs? Use this to your business’ advantage. Making it easy to provide such feedback while creating an environment to candidly communicate praise or concerns will guarantee you the most constructive feedback possible. It will also ensure that the customer feels heard and is not just “another statistic.”
If everything feels too automated and robotic, they may feel hesitant to contribute ideas or express complaints and you may lose the opportunity to learn how to improve your product. Providing your clients this opportunity to express themselves -- preferably to a human being -- helps them feel valued and a part of your community, which in turn promotes loyalty.
Interact with Customers
Exemplary customer service helps potential customers feel their decision to do business with you is a no-brainer. Implementing a more personable approach versus an automated system brings value and importance back into play. Interact as much as possible to secure this notion and long-term business. For example, during the early stages of business, Wufoo (a site to build and share online forms) sent handwritten thank-you cards to every new customer who purchased their product. These “little human touches” show that you care about the customer not only for their purchase, but for their time and valued selection of your business over competitors. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and respected.
The world of technology is ever-changing and new advancements hit the market often. With all of the excitement of what these advancements can bring to startups, it's easy to get caught up in the processes of scaling the business, all the while neglecting basic human interaction. Instead, startups should remember that one of the beauties of being a small company is that there is room for personalised interaction.
Treat potential or new customers like a friend and they’ll be far more likely to endear themselves to your company. Incorporating both aspects of human interaction and technology brings optimal efficiency and accessibility for your startup, thus making the importance of this balance essential to your long-term success.
Cat Williams-Treloar founded Humanisation, a Human-Centered Marketing Consultancy. Humanisation was born to help startups make a human impact in a digital world as they Go-To-Market across APAC.