THE HUMAN TOUCH
The Importance of the Human Touch in Business
As our world becomes increasingly automated, our dependence on and comfort level with services made possible by digital tools continues to expand. And as we become increasingly reliant on technology dictating our every transaction, the unexpected addition of a personal, human touch to our interactions has become a distinguishing factor with remarkable power.
Today we’ll be looking at the human touch in business, taking inspiration from the latest MCH Global Trend Report 2020. The Trend Report is designed to help companies navigate the never-ending influx of evolving moods, technologies, and opportunities of today’s global trends. One of the things the 2020 report highlights is the importance of the human touch in business. As human beings, we innately appreciate the intention, effort, and authenticity that comes with connecting with another person. So while it’s important from a business perspective to stay abreast of the latest and greatest digital revolutions, it has also become apparent that maintaining a human element within a business is crucial in today’s modern world.
An Era of Hyper-Personalisation
We live in an era where Facebook knows everything from our favorite movies to the contacts we recently added in our phones, Alexa and Siri obey our every voice command, google serves us ads based on our recent search results, and we can even go through airport security at certain locations without ever even speaking to another human being.
Brands and companies today know who we are. The benefit of this is obvious, as hyper-personalized experiences await us around every corner, perfectly tailored to meet our every need and desire. Overwhelmingly it works; we like it, it makes things more convenient, and more “personal.” This trend towards hyper-personalization extends through everything we do, and the event industry is no exception.
“The opportunities to customize stretches to almost every aspect of live experiences,” highlights the Trend Report, citing examples like initial POC, personalized speaker-tracks, recommendations, bespoke giveaways, dietary requirements, travel, and logistics. And yet, “technology has created the illusion of connection, but overuse and misuse of it have made us less productive, less engaged, and lonelier,” says Dan Schawbel, author of Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation (1). The power of a person has never been greater, but somehow we still feel alone in this world of customized algorithms, automatic chatbots, same-day delivery, and instant communication. How can we counteract this effect? The key is adding a human touch to renew potential in the power of the personal, or as the Trend Report 2020 states, “Make the visitor feel special like you know them. Because you do.”
The Magic of the Human Touch
What is it about human contact that makes a situation, transaction, or interaction so special? According to author Adam Waytz in his Harvard Business Review article “When Customers Want to See the Human Behind the Product” (2), there are three primary ways human contact matters to consumers: Intention, effort, and authenticity.
“One consequence of the digital age and the push toward mass production is that demand for handmade products has increased,” explains Waytz, “the handmade touch seems to create the perception of something special.” Customers enjoy feeling as if their experience was put in motion by other humans, versus thinking they were generated by an algorithm or an automated process. “Sensing human intention at the root of the interaction is critical because people tend to equate intentionality with purpose and meaning,” Waytz adds.
Human interaction also means consumers get a firsthand glimpse of the effort that went into crafting their experience or managing their transactions. Increased effort makes the product or service seem more valuable in people’s minds, something known as the “effort heuristic” (which broadly states that an object’s value is directly correlated to the amount of effort required to produce it).
In addition to intention and effort, perceived authenticity is another reason why the human touch matters to consumers. Research by psychologists George Newman and Paul Bloom (3) has shown that people prefer to purchase original works of art versus perfect replicas largely because they believe something authentic was transferred to the work through the artist’s touch, something referred to as “positive contagion.”
Something as simple as a mention of other humans adds value to a product or service in the minds of consumers. “Research led by organizational behavior scholar Balazs Kovacs scoured over 1.2 million Yelp reviews of restaurants and found that restaurants that received reviews containing more words relating to authenticity also got higher ratings, a pattern heightened for family-owned restaurants,” Waytz explains. In a follow-up experiment, it was additionally found “that people evaluated a restaurant as more authentic when they read about the restaurant as family-owned versus as chain-owned. The simple mention of humans (in this case a family) heightened authenticity, creating additional value.”
Bringing the Human Touch Back
“Given the significance that people associate with human contact, companies can benefit by making the human touch more visible in the production of their goods and services,” highlights Waytz. “A human touch signals that companies are operating with intentional purpose, working harder, and acting authentically, all of which creates meaning in the minds of consumers.”
So how does one highlight the human touch in business? The Trend Report 2020 gives three couple concrete examples of how to get personal when interacting with consumers:
1. SURPRISE AND DELIGHT: Add charm where there was none before. A handshake, a hi-five, or a joke goes a long way.
2. REALLOCATE HUMAN RESOURCE: Free up staff by automating repetitive tasks. Then use that person to talk to your visitors.
3. CALL PEOPLE BY THEIR NAME: Learn the faces of guests, and remember their names. Ask them about their family. Follow up with a personal email saying how much you enjoyed seeing them.
These are but three ways one can reintegrate a human element into everyday experiences for consumers, creating a space that feels warm, familiar, and above all, human. “Positive human interactions release oxytocin – the hormone that creates bonds,” states the Trend Report. “Pepper them throughout your live experience to leave your visitors feeling good… Build real-world places with a human touch that feel great to be in. A smile glimmers in the selfie era. A warm welcome cheers you. And a deep conversation lingers. These experiences all serve to wow people.”
To find out more about the Trend Report 2020 and to download your free copy, visit: https://www.mch-global.com/ch/future-trends-2020/, and stay tuned for future insights, right here on MCH Global Insights.
1) Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, by Dan Schawbel, 2018, https://danschawbel.com/back-to-human/
2) “When Customers Want to See the Human Behind the Product,” by Adam Waytz, Harvard Business Review, June 05, 2019, https://hbr.org/2019/06/when-customers-want-to-see-the-human-behind-the-product
3) “Art and authenticity: The importance of originals in judgments of value,” by George Newman and Paul Bloom, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2012, https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2011-25897-001