Balancing High Tech with High Touch
With technology overwhelming our senses, human relations is becoming a dying art. However, as humans we still crave interaction with people and an emotional connection that makes us feel valued. In fact, perfecting and using the art of human relations can not only profoundly impact the quality of one’s life and the success one achieves, but can also drive the people, purpose and profit of any business. With technology and information driving the pace of today’s world, the human spirit and purposeful communication is more important than ever to leverage investments in marketing and technology. Although we have more ways to communicate, our communication seems weaker than ever. Although we have more ways to connect, we seem more disconnected than ever. Balancing people with technology and high tech with high touch we maximize growth, productivity, quality and profit, and contribute to connecting and developing more meaningful relationships, personally and professionally.
As you consider the value exceptional human relations skills provide, ask yourself these questions:
- What business are you in?
- Does your company invest in technology?
- Does your company invest in marketing your products and services?
- Does your company have customers?
- Does your company have employees?
- Do you want to work for a successful company?
What do all these questions have in common? They all have a human element at their root. Successful companies are successful because they have human customers buying from human employees. Technology is operated by human beings. Marketing is targeted to humans and is useless unless you have good human relations to service, sell and support products and services. Human beings purchase from us. Human beings run our business. So, what business are you really in? You’re in the human relations business!
Think of a recent customer service encounter you had. Most likely the encounter that comes to mind is probably one that you experienced mediocre, fair or poor service. What was it about the encounter that was poor? Even if the situation involved the failure of technology, it most likely was the human element with trying to resolve the situation that left you most dissatisfied. I recently visited a local company with whom I am a customer. The person assisting me was not familiar with the procedure to process my transaction, so asked for assistance. While waiting for someone to come to his rescue he just stood there, staring at the counter. He had no idea how to converse with me; how to engage in a conversation to pass the time. Or better yet, how to discuss other products and services in which I may be interested. I tried engaging him in conversation, but he was frozen, because he did not know how to respond to the situation that was becoming more uncomfortable by the minute due. He did not possess the skills to communicate effectively. Another recent example occurred when I received a past due notice from a doctor’s office. I immediately called the billing department to politely alert them of the error and that I had paid my bill. The clerk on the other end of the phone immediately became defensive and flustered, rather than remaining calm and assuring me they would investigate it and respond back accordingly. After appropriate research, they discovered their mistake, called me back, but never offered an apology. I could continue with other examples, but I’m sure you have your own on which you are reflecting right now. Why are these examples concerning? Because they happen daily, with more frequency, and throughout every industry.
Consider this – when you go into a store, bank, restaurant or any business, what are we looking at? We, as customers look at screens and the employees look at screens. We have lost that powerful connection that is achieved through eye-contact. I know that looking at screens is necessary, but employees should be trained on the basics of acknowledging, greeting, using eye contact, and conversing while the screens are processing. Many, many, many businesses promote the “experience” they provide to customers. When is the last time you really examined the experience your customers are having? You may ask, “why bother?” These statistics show the value of good service and satisfied customers.
- Satisfied customers tell 5 people about good service they receive.
- Dissatisfied customers tell 10 people about bad service they received. Hal Mather, The Performance Advantage
- For every unsatisfied customer who complains, there are 26 other unhappy customers who say nothing. And of those 26, 24 won’t come back. U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs
- Of customers who take their business somewhere else:
- 15% find cheaper products elsewhere
- 15% find better products elsewhere
- 65% leave because of poor customer service The Forum Corporation
In case you are doing the math on the last statistic above, you may be asking, “what about the other 5%?” Those 5% are lost because the customer moved or passed away.
In this day and age when we rely heavily on technology, we must remember that computers cannot smile or greet employees, customers, community members or shareholders and make them feel valued. The new art of human relations is balancing technology with people, and high tech with high touch to maximize growth and profit while enhancing the lives of people all around us. Sadly, in today’s society, many people do not possess basic human relations skills…..basic communications skills; the skills that are necessary for any successful person and business. The skills necessary to deliver what many companies strive to deliver and that is an experience.
True leaders of any company are positioned to maximize the opportunity to balance high tech with high touch by focusing on the human element. Here are some tips to help you enhance the human relations and ultimately the communication, customer service, teamwork, workplace culture, and the experience your customers encounter, which directly impacts customer loyalty and profitability.
- Treat employees the way you want them to treat customers, coworkers, community members and shareholders. It’s not enough to have satisfied employees; strive to develop loyal employees who will create not only satisfied, but loyal customers. This will result in a greater number of referrals from your loyal customers and will drive profits through the acquisition, expansion and retention of customer relationships. Plus, loyal employees can reduce employee turnover.
- Demonstrate exceptional human relations skills in person, in writing and electronically. Ensure your emails, voice mails, blogs, letters, and all communication reflects sincerity, professionalism and courtesy.
- Take care of the people (your employees) who take care of the customers!
- Ensure you are hiring people who understand the value of good human relations and customer service. Make your hiring practices part of your customer acquisition plan: Have interviewers ask questions like;
- What sort of formal customer service training have you had?
- What unique qualities do you possess that contributes to providing great customer service, teamwork and communication?
- Why do you enjoy working in a customer-focused organization?
- Ask them for examples of customer service, teamwork and communication issues they’ve had in the past and how they responded.
- Ensure all employees know they support the customer, directly or indirectly. Make customer service part of all job descriptions and job evaluations, regardless of the position.
- Lead by example: Demonstrate exceptional human relations skills in all you do and be sure all managers are setting an example. Be creative and sincere and have fun (e.g. surprise employees by greeting them at the door one morning. Have other members of management do this from time to time).
- Set, clarify, communicate and measure expectations about customer service, teamwork and communication at every opportunity. Leverage these expectations in all aspects of your business (e.g. reinforce them during staff meetings, ensure your performance reviews have criteria to measure these items, share success stories through recognition, etc.). Hold employees accountable for delivering on the established expectations.
- Have training and resources to help people develop their human relations skills. Ensure training reinforces and leverages expectations and initiatives within your company and is structured to change behavior. If you don’t train your employees about service, sales, communication, and corporate culture expectations, to name a few, they will not have an understanding of what they need to do and how best to deliver.
- Schedule a set number of hours per month (at least a few hours) working with employees. And, have all leaders within your company do the same. This will keep you informed about the challenges and issues employees are facing and the overall level of customer service, the strength of the team and overall communication. Plus, you will see for yourself how they demonstrate their human relations skills and discover where fine-tuning may be needed.
- Celebrate and share customer service success stories! Remember behavior you want repeated you need to recognize!
What are the benefits of enhancing the human relations skills of your employees? Regardless of the size of your company, acquiring and practicing exceptional human relations skills can achieve the following results:
- Awaken the spirit and help individuals deliver higher levels of customer service, contributing to more sales and profit and greater job satisfaction.
- Nurture better relationships with co-workers – as well as family and friends, resulting in more positive (happier) employees with improved interpersonal and communications skills who ultimately make better employees, sons or daughters, spouses, parents, coaches, and volunteers.
- Enhance workplace culture by creating an environment in which your employees feel valued and treated fairly, contributing to lower turnover.
- Improve creativity and innovation, personally and professionally, resulting in better problem-solving.
- Encourage accountability with decision-making.
- Lead a more purposeful life, regardless of position, title, age, income, life stage or aspirations.
When looking for a training program to foster human relations, customer service, communications and teamwork, be sure to look for a program that encourages participants to understand their values and uniqueness. Success and happiness occur when individuals are aligned with their truths, beliefs and what is in their heart. To maximize growth and development, learning should radiate personally and professionally to develop employees as a whole person and to maximize the uniqueness that each person possesses. The most effective programs are those that occur over time, allowing participants the opportunity to practice and fine-tune new skills and techniques according to their beliefs and that lead to a transition in behavior.
By leading with the human spirit, you will not only improve connections and relationships with employees, customers, shareholders, community members, and the list goes on, but you will also enhance workplace culture and the bottom line of your company.