High Tech Vs. High Touch: Balancing Technology and People
Technology revolves around everything businesses do. But how do you embrace new technological solutions without losing the human element that is so important to small businesses?
Understanding and deciding how much high touch to utilize in your business is a challenge that every business owner, leader, manager, consultant and marketing expert should know. What high touch is and how it relates to the average business in today’s highly technological world is essential for growth and success.
The main challenge most businesses face is in learning how to balance high touch (people skills) with the high tech (technology) that is everywhere. How do you embrace technology without sacrificing high touch? Where and how does the “human touch” fit into our highly technological work world?
It’s not either or
As a business owner of more than 25 years who has been involved with all types of professional organizations and non-profits, and has served on many boards, I have had this discussion many times. I believe both high tech and high touch are essential to a successful business. A balance of both approaches allows a business to use technology for growth without alienating customers or clients. It creates a human bond that helps to offset the coldness of technology. Think of how differently an email can be interpreted vs. an actual phone call or visit. There is no way to attach emotion to an email, so it becomes open to interpretation by the reader. Whereas an actual human encounter leaves little or no space for interpretation. The human element of high touch allows an emotional attachment to take place.
Recently, at a business conference, I heard about the “Triple 555” trend. Simply stated, it means every five years, 50% of businesses are losing 50% of their business (customers). This is an alarming trend! The reasons for this might vary but many of them are related to the fact that the high touch or human relationship aspect of their business does not exist. Imagine working at or with a company that only uses technology for their communication! Would you feel comfortable telling them your business issues without having a human to relate to?
The proof is in the pudding
At the beginning of 2016, I informed my employees at SACS Consulting that during 2016 we were going to focus on one aspect of our business in a major way. I explained that each of us, including myself, needed to work harder on what I call “touches.” I defined this as anything that involved personal contact such as meeting for breakfast/lunch/coffee, networking events, dropping in to a client’s office to say hello and thanks, presenting to a group, referring business to another client, etc. I wanted my company, as well as each of us as individual employees, to increase our touches during 2016 by a minimum of 10% to 20% per month. I explained we still needed to utilize high-tech tools (emails, social media, blogs, newsletters, etc.) but that the emphasis would be high touch on the front end and high tech as the support and/or follow up aspect.
The end results were amazing. That year, we experienced a record year in both revenue and profits. That allowed us to spend more money moving forward on our marketing, reputation building, hiring more key people and more. But, the biggest result of a more focused, high-touch client culture was the way the business community was reacting and the buzz that was created about our company. Comments such as “You are really growing,” “I see you out everywhere,” “People are talking about you” and “You are doing some amazing things” seemed to be echoing everywhere. We also experienced increased requests from people who wanted to join our team or form strong business partnerships.
The most important result of our high-touch effort was that we were receiving increased requests for business from potential new clients, as well as gaining additional business from our current clients, all with less effort on our part. I believe businesses want to be part of, or engaged by, other businesses that can relate on a human level and produce results through positive methods.
So, how do you incorporate this into your business?
You first need to determine what separates your company from the rest. I have conducted trainings all over the country and when we discuss building their positive culture, both inside and out, I am amazed how many companies cannot clearly define what separates their company from the rest. Knowing that important fact is the first step. Everyone in your organization needs to fully and clearly understand your business, because this drives your process for all your high-touch engagements.
Make developing a high-touch company culture a full-time commitment. It is crucial everyone from the front desk personnel to the behind-the-scenes employees understand what sets you apart and what it means to have a high-touch company culture. Being a high-touch company means the culture should exist not only for your client engagements, but also internally starting with your leadership and in all employee relationships. You cannot have a successful high-touch company culture unless it is practiced both inside and outside of your organization. As we become even more technologically advanced, employees want and need to be emotionally connected to their company and its leadership. They need to know and to feel that they are part of a successful and important team. They want to engage clients and fellow employees on a higher, more meaningful human level.
People do not buy products or services. They buy outcomes
Utilizing high touch allows you to view the world through your customer’s eyes. It helps you to stay focused on the source of your customer’s pain and allows you to offer clear solutions to help them eliminate that pain. It also allows them to feel comfortable letting you in and hearing and utilizing your solutions. This process helps you to keep clients, add new clients and connect you to all clients in a stronger, more meaningful way.
We only get one chance at making a good first impression. When you include high touch into your business, supported by on-going follow up using high tech, you have separated yourself from the competition, retained your clients, developed new clients and gained a distinct advantage over your competitors.
Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, is president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services Inc. He is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.