Do you remember the days when getting a ride was an ordeal that required planning, time, and patience? It used to be that if you needed a ride somewhere, you’d have to find a pay phone, dig into your pocket for a quarter, and then wait an unknown amount of time for a taxi to come get you. Now, in New York City or Camden, Maine, you can simply use an app to summon a car share. You get information about the car, an estimated time of arrival, and driver reviews. You also know 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 expect all the benefits of modern technology, such as convenience, speed, accuracy, and cost savings, yet we still expect a friendly, competent human being to greet us and deliver us safely to the right place.

Customer expectations are rapidly evolving with the pace of digital innovation, but it’s more important than ever for your business to maintain a personal touch with the people you serve. Developing a strategy that leverages both technology and human interaction can effectively strengthen your brand and boost customer loyalty.

Here are several ways small businesses can strike the right balance:

  • 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 want to connect 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.
  • 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 for more assistance.
  • 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, when we’re working with first-time homebuyers, we let them know that we’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.
  • 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.
  • Take advantage of social media. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to highlight how your brand is part of the community. Post pictures and updates about community 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 the people they serve.

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