by Gary Paulin, VP of Sales and Client Services at Lightning Labels
“Trust,” “like,” and “respect” are three time-tested criteria for deciding everything from friendships to business relationships. Despite all the trendy buzzwords and expensive technology-driven “customer service” programs that purport to increase sales revenues, most buying decisions revolve around trusting, liking, and respecting the company.
It’s that basic. And that human. Too many companies are trying to supplement—or even supplant—the value of human interaction with the latest shiny technology tools. People still matter, in some ways more than ever before in an increasingly impersonal world. Many consumers crave top-notch customer experiences shaped by people doing right by the customer in every way possible.
Key to success is achieving a balance between human and technology interaction where the two support each other. While technology can be a valuable support system in the relationship-building process, it isn’t the solution in and of itself.
For example, technology that automates perfunctory pieces of the customer journey can free up more human resources for personal interactions. One primary example is a call center where much of the intake process is automated, getting more people more quickly into the queue to talk to someone. (In smaller companies, this truly can mean the difference between employees filling much of their time with routine, non-interactive tasks and actually talking with consumers—where human participation is most valuable.)
Technology itself drives—or drives away—trust, likeability, and respect
A report released by Ernst & Young (EY) notes that the technology itself adds to or detracts from customer engagement. In part, it noted: “This isn’t just a question of choosing the right technologies…It’s crucial that digital innovation protects and nurtures the relationship with the consumer. Three things matter here: trust, respect and value. Can people trust you to use technology responsibly and safely? Do they feel you are using technology to help them, or to take advantage of them? Is the value they get from an innovation fair, considering how much your business benefits?”
The EY report continues, “Consumers remain wary about the impact of new technologies…They can become highly reliant on a tool, while also worrying about its risks to their mental and financial wellbeing. For example, people take the constant connectivity of their mobile devices for granted, yet they increasingly want to turn off alerts and reminders because they find that persistent connectivity overwhelming.”
What are key takeaways for cannabis industry purveyors?
- Assess what you’re doing well and not so well in the trust, like, and respect categories. If you receive substantial reviews through credible non-curated platforms such as Google, see what people are saying about customer service, product quality, technology interactions, et al. Ask questions when customers are on-site or on the phone to help assess what they feel is working well and what needs improvement. Get them live and in the moment for more authentic information. If you must follow the online survey trend, use responses as part of the total picture. Make sure it doesn’t take respondents too much time, and ask thoughtful, probing questions that address the areas of trust, likeability, and respect.
- Synthesize reviews, discussions, and survey results to chart a course for better outcomes. Companies can be too linear. For example, they examine only survey results and base future enhancements on those findings. Get input from multiple sources, then synthesize findings and feedback to chart a course for improvement. It’s not unlike the job of a good reporter. One source provides information. Then, the reporter attempts to verify with at least a couple other reliable sources before coming to conclusions. This is a case where being a good reporter will lead to better outcomes.
It’s way past time to address the tried-and-true cornerstones of how best to build and maintain solid relationships. And understand that enduring solutions come from multiple sources, with technology playing an appropriate support—not be-all, end-all—role.