My children have been texting since birth.
They have more friends on social media than I could even dream about. And they have a far deeper and more meaningful relationship with Siri than they do with me.
They chat, post, update, like and comment with the speed and commitment of elite athletes in training. Nothing will take them from their screens.
If I take one screen from them, within moments another has replaced it. It’s not that they’re trying to run rings round me, it’s just habit. After mere moments of idleness, their fingers instinctively reach out for a screen. Effortlessly, and relying only on muscle memory, they slide open the unlock screen, enter their password – or delegate security clearance to their digitally-registered thumbprint – and they’re away once more, immersed in a world of instant messaging, instant playback, instant streaming and instant gratification on virtually any level.
And what’s wrong with that? Anti-social? No, Dad, we’ve got loads of friends. Loads more than you. But you’re not really communicating, are you? Yes, we are, Dad. We share news, videos and photos, we chat, we laugh, we tell stories.
And it’s true, companies worldwide are finding more and more creative ways to communicate virtually with their customers – from chatty emails and tweets to texts with the latest great offer to a live person to chat to and enhance our website experience.
But how real are the relationships we develop with our customers through social media? Can all this communication ever replace the authenticity of an eye-to-eye conversation with another human being? I think not. While there’s a hugely important place for communication through social media, businesses still need staff with the people skills to make their customers feel a real, human, connection.
Too many young people entering the workforce today lack the confidence to build rapport with the customers they serve because they lack the experience of real conversation.
We’ve designed our How to Wow customer service programme to give customer-facing staff – and that means pretty much everyone – the confidence AND techniques to create ‘wow-moments’ through real conversations – questioning, listening, mirroring body language and matching tone of voice. In short: developing a connected relationship with the customer, so the customer feels she’s being treated like a real person.
In “Shine – Using Brain Science to Get the Best Out of Your People”, Edward Hallowell talks about the importance of making this connection. Creating a connected workspace infused with positive energy, he says, leaves room for a company’s people to tap into their imagination and creativity and so give customers their authentic best.
In his Harvard Business Review article Hallowell says: “Establishing robust relationships at work should be a top priority. Small talk seems trivial, but it pays big dividends, building affinity and trust. Reach out to colleagues. Pay attention to everyone. Appreciate the maintenance people and the cafeteria staff. Notice personal details, like a new dress or a sad look. Most of all, be real. Bring your full self into every interaction.”
So start your journey of connected conversations now. Put down the screen and go and start a real conversation with someone. Try the coffee machine – always a good place to start!