You’d think a solid technical design would be enough to guarantee your app’s spot among the greats. However, if that were true, I would have typed this on WordPerfect instead of Microsoft Word. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s ever-diminishing relevancy has done nothing to discourage cheap, fly-by-night developers from unleashing a flock of Flappy Birds to poop on our windows as we enjoy lunch.
What distinguishes your company from the competition isn’t your app — it’s the people behind it. Humans are emotional creatures. We know our phone is smart. We need to know it understands us and is working for us. We need to feel like part of the team of every app and game in our digital lives. Here are six ways to utilize your human resources to add that personal touch we all crave:
1. Treat People Like Real People
As consumers, we make purchasing decisions based on emotions. Often, an app’s UI and design are the only interaction a company has with its customers. If the design is shoddy or the app is a freemium fraud that panhandles for all the decent features, users will feel insulted and uninstall within minutes, never to return.
Customers prefer giving their hard-earned money to businesses that appreciate it (rather than conducting cold transactions with faceless, bureaucratic organizations). Whether it’s within the app, on social media, through a customer support team, or (preferably) all of the above, show the human faces behind your app so customers can contact the people behind the product.
2. Make Your People Easily Accessible
Your company has a culture, and this culture needs to be easily accessible and relatable to both your company’s staff and customers. Human interaction is the gold of the Information Age; people need to feel like they’re a valued part of your community. Amazon’s Kindle, for example, provides an easy-to-tap “Mayday” button on the OS level. The device is simple to use, and, if you have any issues, you’re never more than a gesture away from assistance.
Make sure both your app and every page of your website carry a listing of important customer support contacts. Respond to customers on social media, and follow up on any issues until they’re resolved. Just like in the mortgage industry, customers need a single point of contact within your company so they’re not rehashing their problem from the beginning each time.
3. Cherish Your Relationships
Valuing business relationships is about more than just finances. Your office should be celebrating important events in your employees’ lives, such as birthdays, weddings, and babies’ births. You should also be providing this same level of care to your customers. You have access to their general information. Send out birthday emails, or if you’re able, provide a gift of some kind (digital items are best as there’s no overhead). Ensure your staff is trained to treat all customers with respect. It’ll pay off when those same customers begin to believe in your brand and money becomes secondary to them.
4. Provide Real Value
It’s not easy to provide an at-the-ready concierge or support staff, but you have to provide that perception to every customer 24/7.
Expedia doesn’t always have the best fares. In fact, many airlines will purposely quote a lower price on their websites to encourage direct purchases. However, the reason so many people use Expedia isn’t the financial benefit, but rather the value provided in the packaging. By booking a package deal for a Delta flight, a Budget car rental, and a stay at the Hilton, the Expedia app is perceived as more valuable. Even if I could have found a cheaper deal at each site individually, I saved time by booking through a virtual travel agent. That’s why human travel agents existed long before the Internet.
5. Focus on Quality Interactions
Sometimes, simply having access to your customers isn’t the most important aspect. Quality, consistent interactions between your users can also be very valuable. This is true with social media, games, and a variety of other applications. eBay, for example, would have been dead in the water if not for the ability to message users. eBay was also proactive in creating PayPal, one of the leading banking alternatives today.
For quality interactions, it’s important to treat your customers like moviegoers and just scroll your names across the screen at the end of an interaction. Give them a reason to stay in the theater and cheer for each team member. Increasing customer buy-in this way will improve your conversion rates and provide opportunities to upsell the customer.
6. Listen and Respond to Feedback
People often will be too frustrated to call a company’s support line when something goes wrong. They might even give up on your product or the project they were working on. Seize the opportunity from the start to introduce them to your company culture and show you care.
Uber has revolutionized human interactions between the driver and the ride, allowing full and open communication at any point to ensure that the service runs smoothly. The feedback from Uber’s community has been great, and it’s now focusing more attention on similar services. If you want to show your users that they’re valued, respond to their feedback. You never know when someone’s trying to show you a vulnerable security flaw.
Customer support costs money. There are a lot of places where automation can replace a person, but customer service is not one of those places. Your customers are people, and communication is the key to nurturing healthy human relationships. If you want people to fall in love with your work, you have to sell them on you first.
What are some creative ways you remind your customers that there are real people behind your brand? Leave a comment below if you’re human (although we also welcome feedback from our robot overlords).
Gideon Kimbrell is a software engineer and entrepreneur. He developed InList.com, the premier app for booking the most exclusive nightlife, charity, and entertainment events in major locations around the world. He can be reached on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan