Opinion piece: The human touch, more than ever the key to customer loyalty

It may sound strange coming from a software company founder, but digitalization has gone too far in many areas nowadays. And that means there are opportunities for companies that find the right balance between technology and the human touch. Not only can they boost their employees’ job satisfaction, but they can also win customers back from big but anonymous companies.

In recent weeks, I have regularly read cries of distress in Trends from business leaders desperate for talent. Attracting and keeping employees on board remains the number one challenge for many companies during difficult economic times. Digitalization can help those companies. After all, computers free us from boring, repetitive tasks and monotonous, mind-numbing work. The increasingly scarce talent can therefore take on challenging, meaningful tasks with which they can really make a difference for customers and colleagues.

Companies that use digital tools in the right way can impact happiness at work: digitalization can enhance the autonomy, engagement, and competencies of their employees. Technology can even lower the barrier to talking about mental well-being. For example, a digital survey can detect psychological complaints at an early stage, allowing employers to start the conversation one-on-one or refer people to professional help.

The digital pendulum is swinging too far

This example illustrates the importance of balancing digital technology and the human touch. Finding the right balance isn’t easy, and we currently see the pendulum swinging too far in many sectors. Bank branches are disappearing. In their place, you now get a polite e-mail in which the bank asks you to pay extra for personalized assistance. ‘You want to meet with a human being? You’ll have to pay first.’ The rule has become the exception. Services taken for granted in pre-digital times have now become a more expensive premium service.

The tech giants that have deeply penetrated our lives are taking things a step further. They are anonymous black boxes where you never see a human being. Even for B2B customers who spend thousands of euros a month (like ourselves), Google and Amazon do not provide a dedicated contact.

Rampant digitalization offers other companies opportunities. That’s the paradox of digitalization: the more we are surrounded by technology, the more the rare human touch begins to stand out. I see banks that are starting to row against the tide and opening new branches you can call directly. I see companies in the energy sector and telecommunications that are quickly strengthening their customer service because their aloof chatbot is costing them customers.

Creativity and intuition

Transferring information, with all its nuances, is still faster from person to person. You can change a password with that chatbot, but for complex problems, consumers still want to see or speak to a human being. Giving customers access to people, who in turn have access to digital systems: that’s the key to customer relations in these technological times. Most online reviews in my own company are not about the product; they’re about our people.

Invest in strengthening the human relationship with your customer, and you will win in more than one way in the long run. No machine can compete with human creativity and intuition.


Stefan Debois, CEO Pointerpro

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