The invention of advertising was a boon for sellers, merchants and craftsmen. Ads allowed them to delegate some of the hard work of customer communication to newspapers, signs and, eventually, radio, television and other media. In the last 20 years, digital communications like email, online advertising and social media were added to this list.
What a convenience– You can delegate customer communications and focus resources on other important things like making and shipping products.
I love these conveniences. We can talk to more customers, more frequently, than ever, and the powers of these media increase every day. Internet advertising even lets us create ads for specific customers instantaneously, based on their past browsing or shopping behaviors.
Here’s the challenge: You can never delegate your most important customer communications, because they are human.
No matter how good your ads are or how adept your social media programs are, your customers will still be moved more through human contact than by contact with inanimate objects like ads, brochures, emails or social media posts.
Consider your own experience. What companies do you love doing business with, and what companies do you despise doing business with? In how many of these cases have your feelings and opinions been driven largely by human interactions, such as those you have with restaurant servers, call center customer service employees or airline gate agents?
Now consider your customers. What kind of human interactions do they have with your company? Are your employees’ encounters with customers causing those customers to love your company more, or less? Have you over-delegated the process of customer communications to inanimate marketing communications?
It’s not surprising that human communications would be the most important customer communications. After all, we’ve been looking at ads for a few hundred years and have been exposed to internet marketing for a few decades, yet we’ve been interacting with other humans for a few million years– actually, longer when you consider how many eons our social structures have been evolving.
Sure, there are exceptions to the rule that human interactions are the most powerful forms of customer communications, such as online companies like Amazon. But your company is not Amazon, and your customers care about the interactions they have with your people.
Here are some questions to ask about your business:
- Do our employees understand our brand promise, and are they equipped to deliver on that promise, with enthusiasm and effectiveness, as they interact with customers?
- Is our marketing team focused on the human communications our company has with customers, or do they work only with non-human marketing communications?
- Is management concerned about the human interface of our company, or do they view this as an abstraction, an afterthought, or something other people should worry about?
At Yastrow and Company, we find that each year our practice focuses more and more on the human side of marketing, sales and customer experience. There is a simple reason for this: It’s where our clients’ customers are focused. It’s not hard to know what’s important in a business when you pay attention to what customers care about.