It used to be that if I needed a ride somewhere, I had to find a pay phone, dig into my pocket for a quarter and then wait an unknown amount of time for a taxi to pull up. Now, I use an app to summon a car share. While I wait, I get updates about the car’s make and color—and an estimated time of arrival. I also get information about how to contact the driver, or report a problem if anything goes wrong.

I’m not alone in taking comfort in these updates: Consumers today require all the benefits of modern technology, such as convenience, speed, accuracy and cost savings, yet still expect a friendly, competent human being to greet us at the pick-up location and deliver us safely to the right place.

While customer expectations are rapidly evolving along with the pace of digital innovation, it’s more important than ever for your business to maintain a personal touch with the people you serve. In fact, 84% of people feel that being treated like an individual, rather than a number, is crucial to earning their business, according to Salesforce.com.

Finding the delicate balance where your business leverages both technology and human interaction can effectively strengthen your brand and boost customer loyalty. Here are five ways small businesses can maintain the personal touch:

  1. Give your customers options for interacting. Some people prefer to fill out forms, request information or make purchases online without even talking to another soul. Others appreciate connecting with helpful humans as they do business. Offer convenient options to meet both ends of the spectrum, as well as those who fall in the middle. Incorporate the best technology you can afford, and also give your customers the opportunity to access real people in real time.
  2. Keep them informed. As a customer proceeds through your system, let them know exactly where they are in the process with email or text updates. As you use these digital touchpoints, make sure to provide your clients with contacts they can reach out to if they want more assistance.
  3. Show your customers you can grow with them. Let your clients know you’re both aware of their needs now and ready to support them in the future. For example, if you’re working with a couple who’s buying their first home, let them know that you’re here to help if they want to refinance or finance a larger home in the future. Get to know your customers enough to understand what’s on the horizon for them, and communicate how you can help.
  4. Use tech tools to make personalization easier. A customer relationship management (CRM) system allows your whole team to access data about your clients so the customer doesn’t feel like they’re starting over if their usual point of contact isn’t available. A CRM system also lets employees make notes of personal details about clients, so your whole team will know if your client recently got married, experienced a significant loss or is expecting a child. These small details can go a long way in building a connection and growing trust—according to research from global marketing firm Epsilon, 80% of survey respondents said they’re more likely to do business with a company that incorporates personalization.
  5. Take advantage of social media. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to highlight how your brand is part of the community. A 2017 study by Cone Communications found that 87% of people will make a purchase from a company that advocates for an issue that’s important to the consumer. If your company is involved in community service, post pictures and updates about these projects, and feature the amazing people who work for you. Use social media as an opportunity to make new connections, increase your brand recognition and highlight the more human elements of your work.

Connecting with your customers on a personal level and using top-notch technology doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. Companies that are willing to be strategic and thoughtful about how they use technology can benefit from the efficiencies these tools provide, while also making meaningful, lasting connections with their customers.

By Renée Smyth, Chief Experience & Marketing Officer, Camden National Bank