Monday, 01 February 2016 17:19

How Do You Maintain a Personal Touch in Today’s High-Tech World?

The hardwood lumber industry has been categorized as one that is based on a conversation and a handshake. Every day loads of lumber, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, get confirmed based on one’s word. But at the same time, technological advances seem to be moving our interactions amongst customers and suppliers further and further away from a face to face meeting.

Don’t get me wrong, advances in communication technology are a good thing. They improve efficiencies, enable us to accomplish more and help us connect when on the run. But how do you balance the need for personalized interactions with the ability to communicate in today’s business market?

intern backpackFor us, we strive for a personalized approach to customer service, even while making use of innovative technology to deliver our products and support our business operations. Offering a personal touch is, we believe, one of the things that set us apart, and we’re determined to maintain this approach even as high-tech tools and resources proliferate in the marketplace.

“Businesses that return to personalized customer service are often in the best positions to identify customer expectations and needs because they actually spend time interacting with customers,” notes Meredith Estep at IHD ServiceDesk.

Here are some areas where we seek to reinforce the personal touch, while relying on technology to get the job done:

Let customers choose how they wish to interact. Most customers say they would prefer interactions with human beings, not computers. However, we have found some have a preferred method of communication for certain things. So it is a good idea to offer customers several options for communicating with you. Some decision makers prefer to interact through email or text, while others prefer to get a phone call. (Ideally, of course, every option should lead to that most invaluable of all interactions, a face-to-face meeting.) The key is to let people know you’re happy to accommodate their preferences for doing business.

Make sure your online presence is comprehensively user-friendly. Emphasizing the personal touch should extend to your business website, social media sites and any customer portals you maintain. If you haven’t done so already, optimize these sites. Build them to be easily accessible through smartphones or other mobile devices. Simplify menu navigations and include the name of your business and relevant contact information on every page to make it easy and convenient for people to reach out to you if need be.

In fact, every element of your website should be user-friendly and designed for people in a hurry.

Leverage technology in your personalized sales calls. Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s possible to thoroughly explore a sales prospect’s individual needs and pain points well ahead of an actual meeting. Coming armed with in-depth knowledge of the prospect’s unique business challenges (after conducting online research) demonstrates you care enough to be fully prepared in advance—an efficient approach to sales calls that’s certain to impress prospective clients.

Furthermore, you can harness technology during the face-to-face meeting in ways that offer an added personal touch. With a mobile-enabled app, for example, “you can review information in person with customers such as inventory, pricing, product recommendations and more,” says Stephanie Gaughen of Nuvem Consulting. “Quick access to information will help you give prospects the answers they need before competitors do.”

Encourage your employees to use technology to improve customer service. Your business may be entirely online or include a brick-and-mortar presence, but when offering a personal touch, everything comes down to the quality of employees you hire and the resources they have available to them to help their customers.

Equip your employees with access to as much customer data as possible. Enable them to access it while in the office or on the road. With today’s communication tools they should be able to leverage a tablet, a smartphone or a laptop to access information from almost anywhere. These are valuable tools to use when interacting with customers to improve interactions, achieve one call resolution and increase the personal touch they provide to a specific account.

So whether you are confirming a load of hard maple via a text message, or verifying the exact inventory levels of white oak via an online app, use today’s communication tools to improve the overall customer experience. Consider interacting with customers the way they want to be communicated with. Match their style and preference in your response. But don’t ever lose sight in the ultimate goal of improving communication and building a stronger customer relationship.

Tony Cimorelli
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