“Today’s technology tools can enhance your trust-based relationships with vendors and customers, but it’s no substitute for face time. Here are some tips to help you use high tech in a smart and meaningful way”
by Tina Manzer
Technology can’t do everything. We rely on it so much, though, that sometimes we forget that. Yes – customers, vendors and other people we do business with expect to connect with us in high-tech ways, but they also crave the deep and meaningful connections that can only come from face-to-face – or at least voice-to-voice – connections.
“Too little tech and you’ll seem out of touch. Too much and you’ll lose the personal touch that keeps customers loyal and engaged,” says Paul Krasnow, author of The Success Code: A Guide for Achieving Your Personal Best in Business and Life. “As you try to find the right balance, remember this: relationships are built on emotions and trust. Use technology only in a way that maintains, enhances, and propels those relationships to the next level.
“Human needs haven’t changed,” he adds. “Relationships mattered in the days of pencil, paper, and snail mail, and they still matter in the days of Instagram and Skype.”
Here are a few of his tips for using tech.
Face-to-face is best
Nothing can replace the effectiveness of a face-to-face encounter, even if it’s by Skype. Meaningful phone conversations can be great, too. It’s fine to use less powerful tech solutions like email, texting, and e-blasts to stay in close contact with your customers and vendors, but they should only be supplemental.
Ideally, “in person” interactions are best for relationship building, especially with your best customers and vendors, but they can’t always happen. Have you tried video-conferencing? It’s a way for you to read body language and facial expressions, which is crucial for building trust and establishing positive and productive relationships.
Pick up the phone regularly
Not all people like telephones. Conversations can be long and meandering, and we’re all busy. But in terms of relationship building (not to mention problem solving), there is no substitute for the give and take that happens voice-to-voice. Schedule actual phone conversations with customers and vendors to catch up and find out how they are doing. Keep that human connection alive!
Note how customers and vendors communicate
Some people prefer a phone conversation. Others prefer a text, or an in-person meeting. Whatever it is, make a note of it and honor their preferred style while maintaining your own dedication to person-to-person contact. It shows them you care about and respect their preferences.
Match the medium to the message
If you want to distinguish yourself, or have something very important to say, write a letter! This works well if you’re trying to book an appointment with a busy person, for instance, figure out something complex, or discuss a potentially sensitive issue. If you only want to confirm a small piece of information and you’ve recently spoken the person, feel free to use email. Let your instinct be your guide.
Be thoughtful and deliberate with social media
Your competitors are taking advantage of social media platforms and so should you. Just make sure your online presence is well planned and executed. Your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram posts should meaningfully connect back to your brand and mission, and provide value to your customers and other readers. Don’t bombard your followers with inane content – it negates your credibility. Post less and make sure your content is good.
Keep your website young and agile
Is your website in alignment with your business image and mission? Make sure it’s as professional as your own personal appearance when you meet a customer or vendor for the first time. Successful companies use streamlined, up-to-date websites with modern fonts, colors, and layouts. If it’s been a while since you’ve changed your design, your website is long overdue for a tune-up and a facelift.
Reach out with email
Trusting relationships thrive on frequent contact. To solidify your connection to your customers, especially when you haven’t talked to them in a while, use email to send them links to articles about play, children’s development stages, your role in local special events, and more. It’s a gesture that shows you are thinking about them … as long as there’s balance. Don’t bombard your customers with superficial links and articles. It can weaken the value of your contact with them, and undermine your relationship.
Personalize your high-tech communication
Sometimes e-blasts make sense, but whenever possible, include a small personal note at the top that lets customers see that they matter to you.
“If you harness the power of technology correctly, it can do wonderful things for your business,” concludes Krasnow. “Just remember that it is only one tool in your toolbox. Don’t let it overshadow your mission to keep trust-based relationships at the center of everything you do.”
Speaker and author Paul Krasnow suffered the devastating bankruptcy of a line of clothing stores he owned, but he went on to join Northwestern Mutual. There, he created a strong network of clients; many of whom have become lifelong friends. For more information, visit paulgkrasnow.com.