Martin Bramall, managing director of idibu, on the importance of human relationships in a digital world.
In the last 12 months, the importance of human relationships generally has been underscored in the most troubling of fashions. Multiple enforced lockdowns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have scythed through the face-to-face interactions we once took for granted. Today many conversations take place within the realms of cyberspace with businesses especially functioning and communicating almost wholly online.
However, as dramatic as the sudden migration to cyberspace has been as a result of the pandemic, the truth is, it has only expedited the inevitable. As a global community, we are increasingly remote and increasingly online. For businesses to continue to operate in a digitised world, they need to leverage the power of next-generation technologies that facilitate this behavioural shift. That often means partnering with the tech firms that supply them.
It would stand to reason that a business’ relationship with a tech partner would be ‘techy’ in its nature, correspondences and projects delivered and executed across binary code. But is this necessary? Is it wanted? Would it produce the best results? I think the answer to each of these questions is no. In short, the importance of human relationships in a digital world remain as important as ever.
Trust remains paramount
It cannot be understated how sensitive the relationship between a business and a tech partner is. With no disrespect intended for either, this isn’t like partnering with a new water cooler provider or photocopier ink supplier. The process of digital transformation can fundamentally improve the way a business operates in a range of ways. Done incorrectly, it can also become burdensome.
Developing real, human relationships allows businesses to establish early mutual bonds of trust that become crucial as projects advance. Businesses need to know that they can approach their tech partners with any questions or suggestions and that they will be taken and responded to in good faith. Tech partners need to know the same.
Such levels of trust and rapport cannot be nurtured where relationships are merely transactional. Whether it’s via videoconferencing or, one day again in the future, face-to-face, relationships must begin as two parties of real people having real conversations. From here, the three pillars of trust can evolve:
- Competency: I believe you can do this job.
2. Communication: I can be honest with you.
3. Character: I like your principles and what you stand for.
Robots can’t read people as well as people can
Contemporary technologies can accomplish some astonishing feats. Tasks that would take a human hours to complete, they achieve in seconds. They provide visibility, speed and insight that can utterly transform a business’ capability and, indeed, profitability. But they can’t read facial expressions, or infer tone, or make decisions based on values and visions. These are abilities only other humans possess and they are essential for keeping relationships strong.
Tech companies deal with products and services that are highly complex. They know – or at least most of them do – that their clients will not share their level of expertise. This is where strong relationships matter. A client may not fully understand or be unhappy with a step in the process but feel unable to express their thoughts clearly or with confidence. When the relationship is strong, tech partners can pick up on these apprehensions and react accordingly. This in turn leads to outcomes that make the client much happier.
ROI v ROR
In business, ROI is one of the very first acronyms we learn. Measured in pounds and pence, it is the monetary return on investing in a product or service. However, it is a crude metric. Building real, human relationships creates value as the examples above have hopefully demonstrated. It has therefore developed its own metric – ROR. Return on Relationship.
The brainchild of consumer relationship building expert, Ted Rubin, ROR attaches a value that is accrued by a person or brand as a result of properly nurturing a relationship. It is the value – both perceived and real – that accumulates over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing.
Forward-thinking tech companies have spent time researching and internalising the concept of ROR and weave its key tenets throughout their approach to customers. It leads to a fundamental change in tack from which the client is a key beneficiary. An unerring commitment to ensuring every need is met based on strong relationships results in completed projects that both deliver and delight.