This Is Why People (Not Technology) Are Still Your Greatest Asset

Author

William Vanderbloemen

December 9, 2016

If you believe your people are a bottom line cost, then you are hiring the wrong people. A new report from Korn Ferry revealed employers now value technology over all other assets, including their employees. I’d like to counter this: I believe people are still your greatest and most valuable asset.

Innovation in technology is rapidly developing daily, and changing the way businesses are run. Earlier this week, Amazon revealed a huge new business development with a brick and mortar store called AmazonGo without cashiers – shoppers simply swipe their Amazon card and a cloud-like system tracks their purchases. Pick up what you need, leave, get charged electronically. That is an incredible innovation. But I’d argue that these sorts of ideas make it out of the brainstorm meeting because of humans who know how to put their ideas to work for them.

Here’s a couple of examples I’ve seen in business practices that convince me that people are still a business’s most important asset:

1. Technology is only helpful if it’s implemented properly.

At Vanderbloemen, we recently bought a piece of software that we thought would save us time, energy and additional staff hiring costs. But the implementation of it was actually a nightmare. It caused many hours of frustration for our team and a key element was missing: an effective onboarding process. There was no one to walk us through the inevitable challenges of the software. This is where an Account Manager’s job is so important: they are there to ensure the technology is working in the way it’s promised. We quickly discovered that there are some problems only a human can solve. Technology can’t read our minds yet, and until it does, humans need humans to understand them and then use technology to help provide a solution.

2. Humans are an important part of the return on investment.

Smart businesses know that in order to hook a customer on their software and then retain that customer, they have to get the customer to use their product and use it often. The customer must be continuously learning and understanding the software in order to see how it brings value to their business. The tech companies that beat out the competition have invested in large human customer service teams that are available 24/7 and offer several weeks of onboarding training implementation “homework” and consulting to make sure the software is “proving itself” and the customer is implementing it in a way that will show them long term value. We experienced this when we started using HubSpot. They invested hours in us as a team through onboarding consulting with homework so that we were actually utilizing the product and seeing direct ROI.

More than that, other people are the ones who will sell another person on software – a machine will have a hard time convincing someone a product is valuable and effective because it can’t describe the benefits in human terms. But an account manager, a customer service team member, or a consultant can say, “Here’s a problem you understand. Let me show you how this technology can help fix it.”

3. Automated labor will never give you the same kind of customer service that establishes your reputation as a business.

Customer service is what establishes your reputation as a business. When a customer says, “I’ve never been treated like that before by a company,” that’s what keeps and grows your customer base.

I read an article about McDonald’s responding to the rise of the minimum wage by replacing full-service employees with self-service kiosks. Union demands for a higher starting wage have forced businesses with small profit margins to make decisions like this. But think about your experience at McDonald’s with an ipad monitored by an apathetic worker versus the “service and a smile” philosophy of Chick-fil-A. Without fail, Chick-fil-A is constantly providing quality fast-food service by employing people and training them to make customers feel well served. It’s as they say, “their pleasure.”

Automated labor will never give you the same kind of response from customers. As HubSpot shared on their Instagram this week, Bill Macaitis, former CMO and current advisor of Slack says, “Marketing doesn’t define what a brand is. A brand is made up of every single interaction someone has with your company.” What makes you memorable and what keeps people coming back to you is in large part thanks to the people who establish your reputation.

In the last 100 years, technology has completely transformed the way businesses are run. Without the technology that we have in what seems like the most simple and basic innovations – like laptops or internet access – many things would be near impossible. Every college graduate these days is highly proficient with a computer, which was not a reality just 30 years ago. The tech world will continue to be on the cutting edge of innovation and business. But people are still a vital part of that process. After all, that’s where ideas are born, tested, and tweaked. In the end, technology means a better future for your business, but humans are at the helm of those breakthroughs.

 

This article was written by William Vanderbloemen from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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