Oh, The Humanity!

Modern brands have an amazing array of tools, tactics and technology at their disposal. Yet new research from Forrester finds that companies are struggling to create and sustain a human connection with their customers. What gives? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • One problem: if we’re not very careful and mindful of the person on the other end, all of our amazing new tools can easily suck the humanity out of an interaction.
  • For example, when the interactions aren’t face-to-face, it’s very easy—too easy—to robotically pile message on top of message. If you go to the well too many times, don’t be surprised if it runs dry.
  • There’s a bigger issue here. A tendency to start with tech instead of starting with the human equation and then using tech to support. Shinola CEO Tom Lewand offers this wise reminder: “Nothing, including technology, should replace personal interaction. Technology follows everything else”.
  • Trouble is, tech sometimes feels … easier. Humans are inherently messy. Under increased pressure to deliver, modern marketers want order—and results they can measure. As Tom Goodwin points out “marketers are asking for KPI’s that are simple to track rather than really listening to customers and understanding their wants and needs”.
  • Of course, the demand for strong KPI’s starts at the top. That’s where the balance between humanity and technology must be negotiated. Even as they call out brands for falling short, Forrester acknowledges the various “headwinds” hampering efforts to operationalize customer-centricity, including declining consumer trust and organizational silos.
  • The hardest part of customer-centricity, though, isn’t mentioned by Forrester. Truly putting the customer first requires real commitment and even real sacrifice. Pomelo CEO David Jou puts it like this: “A lot of companies say they are customer-focused, but for me, if I can choose between making the customer happy and making a profit, I will always choose making the customer happier. Full stop.”
  • Jou’s message is probably a hard sell in most corporate boardrooms. But Forrester believes the stakes are high enough to nudge leaders past discomfort: “This is not a touchy-feely consideration about delighting customers as a matter of altruism: Emotion continues to be the most potent driver for growth. This is, at its heart, crass and clear financial risk.”
Issue #61
Oct 14, 2018

Further Reading