The digital marketing age that we are in poses more than a small challenge to the enterprise in that we want to be more engaging with fewer – far, far fewer – humans in the corporate ranks. Marketing is using more sophisticated algorighms to understand and target the right person at the right time in the right place with the right offer. And then Marketing finds out that the bean counters who really run the joint found the plan wanting. Just look at most airline or hotel chain scams: first you run after their credit card or loyalty program to get the free nights at the hotel, and then in year two they re-classify your favourite Category 4 hotel to a level 5 that does not accept points. By re-paving the parking lot, or adding a business lounge. And the airline that merges or sends you the offer RIGHT AFTER you purchase that ticket, because they know you bought the ticket and it is safe to dangle the offer in front of you when you cannot re-book to meet the terms because the availability and price have changed. Technology to destroy loyalty.
But the eradication of carbon-based life forms continues unabated at companies. The new smart business is hygenic and clever. Tablets built into surfaces, menues beckoning, wireless invisibly throbbing. It is imperative to drive growth and improve margin.
But a strange thing about humans is that they love other humans. If you are watching the World Cup, you know Cristiano Ronaldo. Twice the number of people follow him on Twitter as Beyonce and six times more than the Pope and three times more than the Dalai Lama. And all of those folks are more important to people than your company. More people are concerned about tendinitis in his left knee than are thinking about your company – or will ever care about your company – ever. Ever. Compare that to the number of people following his Portugal national football team – he towers over the team as a team. It is #7 the forward, not the team that interests the fans. It is often, maybe usually, that your personnel, not your corporation, that are the make-or-break in a relationship.
For some of us this is OK. If you are Apple or Google or Alibaba. But beyond the 1%, a personal face to the customer is critical. The waiter, or receptionist before the MRI, the clerk at the courthouse, the surgeon, the shopkeeper. Small example: I was replacing a broken pane of glass for a very old light fixture, and I went into the only store in my area that actually cut glass to special size. It is a family-run business called Goody’s. I walked through the front door and a man immediately asked me how they might help. I told him, and he pointed to the back. As I walked, I heard a second man speak into an intercom, “John, I have a customer for cut glass.” When I got to the back, there was John ready to cut my glass. For $3.29…. Ready in four minutes.
I asked John, “Shouldn’t I buy a second pane in case I have another one break?” and he said, “No, I wouldn’t recommend that.”
I asked him, “Why not? It’s only $3.29!” His answer? “Well, I wouldn’t recommend it because we would love you to come back to the store.” So human. So engaging.
When your software can match John of Goody’s, make the switch. Until then, maybe a blended strategy and measure, measure, measure satisfaction and engagement.
By the way, maybe you watched to opening kick at the World Cup (ok, so I booked off a bit of work time!)? A young paraplegic man used an exo-skeleton to kick the ball that he used his MIND to operate. THAT is technology. Go Duke.