President and CEO, Sauce Labs
In a matter of months, we’ve shifted from a high-touch economy to a low-touch economy, and, in the case of physical interactions, we’ve also shifted to a no-touch economy. As it becomes increasingly clear that many of the behavioral changes accelerated by the pandemic will remain with us long after it’s over, our collective focus can no longer be on short-term mitigation. We need lasting solutions.
Knowing full well that our businesses ultimately depend on them, we must find more and better ways to create meaningful touch points in a no-touch world. Let’s examine six ways we can make it happen.
1. Grow digital confidence.
If an app is the new storefront, then digital confidence is the new business currency. To have digital confidence is to know your web and mobile apps will work flawlessly every time they’re used and to know that confidence is shared by your customers.
Digital confidence was already fast becoming the foundation on which meaningful touch points are built. But whereas before the pandemic digital confidence was a competitive advantage, in our new low-touch reality, it’s table stakes. Now is the time to step into digital acceleration like never before.
You can’t grow digital confidence without rethinking the way you test and develop software. Creating the flawless application experiences the low-touch economy demands requires a never-ending cycle of testing, delivery and improvement. Test early and often. Iterate quickly, and improve continuously. This is how organizations like American Airlines can create a digital check-in process that requires no contact with either person or screen.
2. Avoid losing the human touch completely.
Just because we can’t physically touch doesn’t mean we should ignore the human touch. Even high-tech companies brimming with digital confidence can still use the human touch to build intense customer loyalty and a valuable omnichannel experience. A great example of this is a food-delivery company I observed that still makes a point to call every customer the next day to make sure the experience was a pleasant one.
3. Continue to invest (wisely) in innovation.
As we learned from the last major recession in the late 2000s, companies that continue investing in research and development during trying times are the ones that emerge with sustainable and growing businesses. The same will likely be true of the pandemic. In times such as this, our customers need innovation more than ever. Now is not the time to take your foot off the innovation pedal. Continue to invest wisely in research and development to create the innovation halo your business needs.
4. Lead with empathy.
No person or business is unaffected by the changes the pandemic has wrought. Assume your customers are impacted, and take pains to understand how you can help. Now is not the time to chase the money. Chase customer relevance and satisfaction instead. The money will eventually follow.
Maybe that means providing additional support to make up for expertise a customer can no longer afford to employ in-house. Maybe it means being flexible about your billing or consumption model. Or maybe it simply means being more available to your customers, especially at the senior levels of your organization.
Whatever the case, lead with empathy, and allow that empathy to drive your actions. Compassion is universal. Its presence will overcome almost any obstacle.
5. Serve the underserved.
The loss of physical touch points has forced entire populations to embrace digital platforms in ways they never have before. Businesses have both an opportunity and responsibility to create digital experiences that are specifically versioned for those we may not be accustomed to servicing.
From my perspective, nowhere is this need more pronounced than with our senior population. Already habitually underserved, many have been forced to engage with digital platforms that were not built with them or the devices they use in mind. From scheduling appointments to ordering food, seemingly every day, parents or grandparents have to do something online, and some of them might be doing so for the first time. In many cases, those experiences are less than pleasant or confusing. Can you design a simpler experience that caters to their needs?
It’s not just about seniors, of course. Every day, new populations are discovering your business for the first time. If you can create an experience tailored to them, that’s as meaningful as touch points get.
6. Create a culture of quality and ownership.
We can’t take any of these steps without an engaged and enthusiastic workforce. To create meaningful touch points with your customers, you first have to create a culture of quality and ownership among your employees. As always, it starts at the top. It’s our responsibility as leaders to make it known that quality is everyone’s responsibility and that everyone is empowered to drive improvements to the customer experience when the opportunity presents itself.
From there, focus on behaviors. Culture is formed by behavior, and behavioral change drives business change. If we want employees to take ownership of quality and speak up when they see opportunities for improvement, we have to provide them the platforms for that change. Encourage vigorous discussion and disagreement, but demand that those discussions yield a hard-fought consensus against which everyone agrees to execute.
Customers notice — always.
If there’s one element of a low-touch economy that’s no different than a high-touch one, it’s that customers notice when you go the extra mile to create great experiences. Aim high in this low-touch world. You won’t just survive. You’ll thrive.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?