Despite humans having daily interactions with digital devices, the digital experience has long held a cold, emotionless, and even robotic connotation. Pre-COVID 19, there was still a well-defined line between human and digital experiences. People could go to their appointments, school lessons, work meetings, gym sessions, etc. while encountering few digital interactions. Industries and businesses that relied solely on in-person transactions are now having to adapt to the reality of needing digital tools to reach their customers.
So the question is: how can you make your businesses’ digital interactions more human?
Stop treating human and digital experiences as separate.
The idea that digital experiences and technology are “non-human” is a dated notion, especially now. Before the COVID pandemic, the human and digital experience were decoupled; now it’s essential that they come together. The reality is, digital experiences are fostering human interactions like never before. Not only is technology enabling loved ones to keep in touch, but it’s also fostering new and creative ways to connect: Zoom happy hours, House Party app game nights, Netflix watching parties, and more. The technological capabilities were always there, people are just now embracing them to keep their connections going. This open embracement of digital products isn’t strictly for people interacting with friends and family; the emotional component is also spilling over into contacts with businesses. People want to interact with and support the businesses they love — safely and remotely. They just need the tools to do so.
Adapt your processes.
Your first question in this age of digital transformation may be: are our customers willing to transform with us? The answer is more than likely yes if it means the customer gets to continue using their favorite products and services. If people can’t access your product now, they may start looking for other companies to fill the void. According to PwC, 32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience. This rings even more true as financial strains and unemployment rates are skyrocketing.
This time during the pandemic is cultivating a unique opportunity to evolve products as people become increasingly willing to try new things and tweak their everyday routines to retain a sense of normalcy. If consumers are willing to adapt their own processes so quickly, businesses must be willing to do the same. It’s easy to default into the dated way of thinking, where going through a digital transformation equates to taking the human element out of products and services. This era is quickly proving that technology can incorporate humanity more than in the past, fostering a more collaborative experience than ever before.
Don’t be scared of imperfections or false starts as you adapt your processes for this new unknown. That’s part of being human. In fact, we’ve seen an interesting shift with clients and the conversations we’ve had about trying to evolve products. Suggestions we offered during consultations that were once thought of as “risky” are now being requested by clients in order to reach consumers in a new way and increase interaction.
View past and present digital initiatives with fresh eyes.
If you’ve run digital initiatives in the past, you’re already on the right path. But driving digital innovation for the sake of innovation isn’t enough. The pandemic caused some of the Fortune 50 companies we work with to analyze their previous initiatives through the lens of “are these initiatives human enough?”. Posing this question allows an organization to scrutinize if its digital innovation is done in isolation. If it is, pause those projects. Establishing a collaborative experience between customer-facing and digital teams as the strategy for new initiatives and projects will breed a more humane product from the get-go. We believe that is where technology is headed.
Extend your business’s traditional channel of delivery.
COVID-19 has shed a light on both the strengths and weaknesses of organizations and how well-poised they are to stay afloat in times of uncertainty. Businesses can no longer rely solely on their traditional channels, particularly those that rely solely on in-person transactions. Think beyond your physical space. How can you keep the thoughtfulness and intentionality of human connection in your digital offerings? Avoid thinking of this industry shift as a way to repeat all your in-person processes digitally. Rather, use your offerings in the digital space as an integrated aspect of the physical experience. For example, doctors and wellness providers are offering online visits. Farmer’s markets are providing online orders, curbside pickup, and box delivery options. Retail stores are pushing FaceTime shopping appointments. Follow this model of using technology as an extension of –not in place of– your traditional channel of delivery.
Don’t ditch your new processes and mentality when the world is back to “normal”.
When the curve is flattened and quarantining and social distancing directives are lifted, it’s easy to believe life will go right back to how it was before the pandemic started. Our fear at SmallWorld is that organizations will exit the pandemic having created an awesome, alternate, digital-first experience that they won’t continue to foster in the future. They’ll go back to their previous ways of business and customer interaction, despite having a clear path for employee and consumer-facing tools to really evolve products and services. Keep the path to show your company’s true nature of collaboration and innovation.