As the chief customer officer of a restoration technology company, I spend a lot of time talking about tech: how it increases efficiencies, streamlines processes, and ultimately gives restoration companies the power to improve their profits. All of this is true, and I wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t, but I’m a big believer in the human element behind every company interaction—and it’s a viewpoint I think often gets marginalized in an overzealous focus on the latest and greatest tech.
I believe personal connections and relationship-building separate perfectly competent restoration companies from truly exceptional ones. Technology can replace some tasks previously done by humans, but great tech enhances and supports a deeper human connection.
The COVID-19 health crisis has brought both the tech and human sides of this equation into stark focus. While the many digital solutions offered in our industry make it possible for mitigators to continue working in the midst of a pandemic, they illustrate what can be lost if every customer interaction is reduced to a webform, a text alert, an automated statement of work, and a bill for services. I hear quite often from our customers that they feel their own customer interactions can be cold, sterile, and transactional. Like them, I wonder whether we’re going about things the right way.
So how can we utilize technology to improve the human connections successful businesses rely on?
One answer I keep coming back to is the need to lean on tech to do what it does best: freeing personnel up to do what they do best. Rather than using the efficiencies technology provides to just do more work, instead take that opportunity to do better work. I know that’s a little counterintuitive; after all, didn’t I start off this very article talking about how tech can increase profitability? I’m not turning my back on that premise, but I believe the ability of a technological solution to make us all more efficient and profitable ultimately rests on its ability to free us up to do better work, making those connections and ensuring every customer feels heard, understood, and appreciated.
Take customer communication, for example. Studies have shown the way you communicate with customers is one of the biggest factors in their ultimate satisfaction with your work. The average homeowner isn’t going to know whether you deployed the appropriate number of air movers for a flooded room of a given size, but they’ll know without a doubt how you communicated with them. More than remembering anything you specifically said or did, people will remember how you made them feel. Down the road, when they’re asked by a neighbor to recommend a mitigation company, that may well be what they remember most, in fact.
One of my company’s tools automates this kind of communication, allowing customers to share photos, notes, and other information in advance, alerting customers when a tech is en route, when they’ve arrived, and when they’ve finished their work. It also provides a link where homeowners can see info about the crew that’s headed their way and actually track their vehicle’s progress. It’s great to utilize this sort of technology that helps shift customer communication into the next gear, but—there’s always a but—it’s a mistake to stop there.
I get it. Every time you finish something demanding your attention, three more seem to take its place. There seems to be no end in sight, and with advanced solutions efficiently helping you navigate your crazy-busy day, there is a real and compelling temptation to let technology do all the talking. Stop, reflect, and take a moment to breathe. At its core, business still is—and always will be—about people. Take the time to make sure you and your team are connecting with each other and your customers on a human level. People need and appreciate authentic and genuine human connection.
Rather than relying on mobile devices and text messages as the totality of customer communication, technology should instead serve as the foundation for improved communications—more human, more impactful, more personal. Technicians are invited into homes—granted, usually under less-than-ideal circumstances—and should use the opportunity as representatives of the company to make meaningful customer connections whenever possible. COVID concerns make this more difficult, no doubt, but also even more important than ever.
The key to getting the most out of your tech solutions may be as simple as asking a few questions. How are we incorporating technology into our business operations? Are we using it to extend and deepen our customer connections? Are we communicating better or just sending more links to our customers? Are we using technology to enhance the customer experience, or just throwing more information at them?
Tech solutions at a restoration company can work wonders, but like any powerful tool wielded improperly, technology can be destructive and counterproductive. Let’s strive to make sure that the tech we embrace helps us gain our customers’ trust, build solid relationships, and facilitate clear communication.