Mark Richardson: Technology, a Blessing and a Curse

The pendulum has swung too far from personal contact and communication.

March 09, 2015

Technology has not only dramatically changed the way we do business, it has affected how we interact with each other on a fundamental and personal level. Our dependence on technology has become like a drug, and we can’t imagine living without these tools. Technology is certainly a blessing, but it also is a curse.

I believe our use of technology is abused most in our interaction with clients. In many cases this is driven by the client’s desire to leverage technology rather than having a face-to-face conversation. Today’s builder not only needs to be an expert in construction but also in how to communicate and interact with the client in order to grow long-term relationships.
 
You now have the ability to communicate about the entire project electronically, from schedules to designs. You can address important questions and receive payments without ever speaking to the client. If you want feedback on the product or the client’s experience with your company, electronic reviews and surveys can handle those tasks. It’s all very efficient, but don’t assume that it’s always effective. Don’t assume that you’re creating a client for life through technology.
 
 Over the holidays I received about 35 electronic holiday cards and messages and five handwritten cards. Which of the two methods of holiday cheer do you think I appreciated the most? Which of the greetings did I even read and which ones got deleted or thrown away the quickest? I don’t want to sound unappreciative of the holiday gesture, but I do want to stress how important it is to keep your high-tech and high-touch outreach in balance.
 
Since I know you have a long list of ways you use technology, I suggest you dust off a few high-touch techniques to weave back into your daily habits.
 
1) Call: Don’t just email. Learn how to leave amazing, memorable voice mails.
 
2) Send simple handwritten notes: I have a good friend who sends me one after every lunch (we get together about every three months). What a great way to keep the lunch memory alive. 
 
3) Stop by: How often do you pop in at a past client’s home just to say, “Hi, I was in the neighborhood and wanted to say hello and see how you’re doing.” This may be the best marketing/client feedback activity you can do.
 
4) Make one call a day: Think of it as a one-a-day vitamin. Call one past client each day with a pure interest to keep in touch, not to peddle services. It can result in millions of dollars in business over time.
 
5) Train your team to be high-touch: When a carpenter arrives at a client’s home, he should look for the client and 
say hello. Training is the key because the high-touch mindset is not natural for 
most craftsmen.
 
6) Make the process more visual: Most clients connect and feel more comfortable with explanations that use hand-drawn sketches (rather than CAD), photos, metaphors, and analogies. You may also use more diagrams in client meetings to describe your process. All these low-tech techniques help you connect in a more meaningful way.
 
7) Give a gift: This can be a simple, clever gift that might be appreciated personally or something cool for the client’s home. It may also be a couple hours of services to help reduce their home stress. The cost is generally small, but the memory of the relationship will live on.
 
I do believe that technology has been a blessing. When used properly, it can save tremendous amounts of time and eliminate miscommunication and other issues that arise during a project. However, I also think the pendulum has swung too far. 
Keep it balanced, or at least ask yourself: What is the most effective way to connect? You will feel better and see better results. 
 
Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, “How Fit Is Your Business?” as well as his latest book, “Fit to Grow.” Reach him at [email protected] or 301.275.0208.
 

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