In the age of dating apps and emojis, the art of conversation has vastly diminished. Don’t get me wrong; technology has worked wonders for us in many ways. It’s given us the ability to stay in touch with college buddies, work remotely (hello couch!), and do away with those 50-pound encyclopedias we used to lug around. But as with everything in life, the tension of opposites applies: when you gain something, you most often lose something else. And sadly, this digital age of instant global access that we live in has taken from us the very foundation of what makes us different; one of our most basic human needs: connection.
Technology As Second Nature
In some ways, the advancement of technology has even become dangerous. It’s gotten so bad that some cities, such as Stamford, Connecticut, and Honolulu, Hawaii have begun regulating and fining individuals for the act of “texting while walking” in order to reduce the chance for individuals to injure themselves or others due to inattention. Our inability to relinquish control of our fifth appendage (our cell phone) has become something embarrassingly challenging.
Some people play games at dinner, putting their phones in the middle of the table; the first person to look at their phone picks up the check. For some reason, in this time of “likes” and “follows,” “hash tags” and “handles,” we have forgotten how to relate to the people around us. That ability to relate not only contains an exorbitant amount of emotional value, but what many don’t realize, is that it can add to your bottom line too.
Connection Improves Health, Creates Financial Value
According to a study on Science.org (featured on Psychology Today), recent research has “established both a theoretical basis, and strong empirical evidence for a causal impact of social relationships on health.” Social connections have many benefits. They can increase our longevity by up to 50 percent, and even strengthen our immune systems. On the flip side, individuals with low amounts of social connection often experience declines in psychological and even physical health, not to mention higher levels of isolation. But what does this have to do with business? Everything.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.” This is because these individuals are less likely to be hypersensitive to pricing among other factors. Since there are friendships involved, it is much less likely for them to choose to take their business elsewhere. Acquiring a new customer is 5% – 25% more expensive than retaining a current one. Building human-centric customer service makes a big difference considering that one-third of Americans say that they will consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service, and a whopping 91 percent of customers will take their business elsewhere without any explicit warning. Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profit by anywhere from 25% to 95%.
Human Connection, Better for Business
After all, the act of selling is all about relationships. It’s about establishing, strengthening, and leveraging human connection. Human connection allows us to not only reach another person, but it gives us the capacity to effectively impact and influence them.
One such company that excels at leveraging human connection is Dollar Shave Club. Despite heavy industry competition, the subscription razor and bathroom product company uses technology to understand its customers, but then uses personal connection to engage with them. It’s clear through its motto, “We don’t respond to situations; we respond to people,” that the company leverages human relationships to drive revenue.
What to Remember
Any business with customers is in the business of people. Here’s the harsh truth – it is practically guaranteed that somewhere there is someone else doing the same thing that you are, just as well – if not better. But here’s the beauty of human connection. When everyone else is so entrapped by digital life, emails, and Skype-meetings, the simple act of connecting with others gives you a competitive advantage. So what can you do to better your relationships with customers?
- Keep Communication Open. Not only through email, but through more personal channels as well. Try calling a client purely to see how he or she is doing and how you can help with anything.
- Always Exceed Expectations. Set high expectations with your clients (and your team) – and then exceed them. Beat your own deadlines, go above and beyond, and your hard work will eventually come back to you.
- Genuinely Listen. As the saying goes, we’re given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening is one of the most important things that you can do – especially when it comes to business. By listening to your customers you can learn what’s working and what’s not; what to change, and what not to.
- Actively Engage. This goes back to the idea of communicating openly and listening genuinely. Stay present and attentive, and learn what your client’s experience is really like.
- Show Your Appreciation. Your hard work may be the reason you were able to open a business, but your customers are the reason you’re able to remain open. Without clients your business cannot be. That’s why it’s always a good idea to show that you care about them. Sending gifts or cards on birthdays is just one day to show your appreciation.
Honesty, compassion, trust, and integrity are purely human emotions. You can utilize all of the technology in the world to help you to operate efficiently, but at the end of the day, nothing can replace true human connection.