We are living in a virtual world; and it is essential we remember to keep our communication human. Although a few individuals are working in face to face roles, largely we are working and communicating in a virtual way. It is even more important to remember to keep the human element in our communications.
I am constantly reminded of this, because I have delivered over 40 webinars since the lockdown, and always remember that there are human beings at the other end of the internet. It is so easy to hide behind screens; powerpoint presentations and particularly when no one has their videos switched on. So first of all I will share my top tips for virtual calls.
- Having images of the people you are speaking to, particularly if you have a regular team is very important. Put the name and where they are from below the photo. Distribute this to all of your team members and ask them to print the document off and put it next to their computer to refer to during any meeting.
- Keep videos switched on so that everyone can see each other. We are keeping things human by being able to see each others’ faces.
- If there is someone who is unable to switch on their video: perhaps their wifi is weak or they are reluctant to switch on, encourage them to have their profile photograph visible, so there is still the human connection.
- Have a rule that everyone says their name before they contribute to the conversation. This again reminds everyone that we are all human!
- Maintain the human connection by including questions at the beginning of any meeting to check everyone is okay.
- Remember that many people in your teams are used to being around other people in the office. If you could arrange additional ‘events’ such as celebrations: birthdays, reaching targets, Friday afternoon virtual drinks, this is keeping you connected to each other.
This is the sort of content I cover in my Facilitating and making an impact in virtual meetings webinar.
However, I was also prompted to write about maintaining the human connection, after receiving two automated texts from a local business I am a client of. I have spent a significant amount of money over the last 6 years, and this could be a time to really think outside the box and keep the human touch.
On the day of the lockdown starting I received this text.
Now I absolutely understand that it must have been a terrible shock to have to close your business at short notice, and to cancel all of the bookings. The fear about money, cash flow and whether your business will survive is massive. I understand that. However, I heard no more until a random text message last week.
So basically 2 months where there was no correspondence and I have to say that as a customer, both of the messages were impersonal and automated. At the very least I am feeling unloved. A personal text message, with Hi Susan would have gone a long way, but instead, I am literally data on a database. And certainly it was 2 months before I was ‘updated’ and I haven’t been called at all.
I know there are businesses – such as my own – where we have reached out to our customers to a) check they are okay b) see if we can help them in any way c) come up with innovative ways to serve our existing customers or at least to make them feel valued.
I understand that it isn’t possible to offer any haircutting services due to social distancing, but I do know of hairdressers who have been mixing hair dye to assist with ‘grey roots’ (FYI I don’t have them!) or sharing top tips on how to maintain hair before a hair cut. One of my business friends had hair dye mixed and delivered by her hairdresser before she appeared on an online forum!
It is easy to believe that automated, non-personalised messages are enough. They are not to existing clients. We feel undervalued: that our custom is only worth an easy, one solution fits all message that goes to everyone. I certainly believe the message from my hairdresser will have taken 30 seconds to set up. That doesn’t demonstrate much value.
So what could you do to engage and communicate with your customers in a human way? Here are 5 ways.
- Pick up the phone and actually talk the customer. Explain what is going on. How could you help.
- Personalised text message, seeing when it is convenient to call.
- Sending a postcard or letter explaining they are looking forward to seeing you soon.
- Coming up with helpful content – videos, pictures etc to share with your customers so they feel valued. They will return.
- What else could you do to help them? Could you offer delivery of products? Could you make up conditioners or shampoos?