This digital expert reveals what modern companies need to do to create genuine customer relationships

Photo: James McCauley/Harrods via Getty Images

Digital is important but don’t underestimate the power of the human connection.

That is the key that Erik Qualman, best selling author and sitting professor at Harvard & MIT, believes will allow modern businesses to be successful.

His book, Socialnomics, has been used by the US National Guard, Nordstrom and NASA. His book Digital Leader earned him the title of the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling, and his latest book, What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube, is a Pulitzer Prize nominated work.

He knows his stuff.

As modern businesses navigate through the digital revolution, taking on new technologies at the fastest pace in history, Qualman says it is vital for people to stop, and focus on what truly matters: your customers.

Businesses today are rich in data available to them. It’s this Big Data that Qualman says will help you better serve these customers.

“[All Big Data is]… is our customers, our travellers, they are telling us what they like and what they don’t like, every day,” he says.

“They are telling us on the phone. They are telling us in person. They are telling us online. So, it is really up to us to take that and then surprise and delight them with all that information that they are giving us.”

He calls this “socialnomics“, which is also the title of his first book.

“All that is, is not only they are telling you, they are telling everybody else. And so that’s the word-of-mouth, which historically has driven your business.”

He says the constant pressure on people to “get digital” has often forced us to lose sight of the “human part”.

“How do we focus on what matters most? How do we find the line to where we’re actually balanced between both of these worlds – the offline and the online… [while] understanding that technology changes every second humanity never does. Human nature never does,” he says.

“It’s those that act like the Jetsons and the Flintstones that win in this era, in this digital decade.”

He says it’s this balance between online and offline which is why traditionally digital business are suddenly opening physical spaces.

“That’s why you’re seeing — whether it’s Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Warby Parker — digital companies… are now opening up storefronts, because they understand the power of that human connection, the face-to-face.”

He says staying focused can be difficult to achieve in the “digitally-distracted world”, but there are many ways to find focus and be more productive to ultimately form deeper customer connections.

Here are his three examples.

Not-to-do lists

“94% of us make to-do lists every day,” he said, adding, “about 4% have a not-to-do list”.

“The not-to-do list is actually more important than the to-do-list because the not-to-do list tells you what should go on your to-do list.

“Your not-to-do list should be 20 times longer than your to-do list.

“All we do is start adding stuff to our [to-do] list. What we need to do is put it over here on the not-to-do list, but I like to call it the ‘not yet’ list. You’re going to eventually get it, but just not today… we need to have that list.”

Stop multi-tasking

“I thought I was this awesome multi-tasker,” he says.

“It turns out we can’t multi-task as human beings. What we’re doing is switching tasks. So our brain is trying to decide what’s more important – A or B, A or B.

“In that moment, we’re actually being less efficient. The whole reason for multi-tasking is to get more done. We’re doing the exact opposite thing. Our IQ in the moment we multi-task drops 10 points… That’s the equivalent of not sleeping for 36 hours. So the easiest way to simplify our lives… is to actually stop multi-tasking.

“We need to always ask ourselves this question, it’s very helpful: ‘What’s the one thing, if I do it well, will either make everything easier, or not necessary?'”

Be flawsome

“In order to move forward, it’s all about actually not being perfect. It’s called failing fast, failing forward,” he says, “It’s really about being ‘flawsome’.

“A customer [who experienced a problem] is three times more likely to repeat as a customer than someone that didn’t have an issue in the first place.”

He says, “when things go awry… it’s actually your time to shine. It’s all about being as ‘flawsome’ as possible.”

“To summarise everything here, it’s really about we need to stop and focus before we can move forward. It’s the balance between the offline and the online. It’s acting like the Flintstones and the Jetsons in this Jetsons era,” he says.

“Most importantly, it’s how do we surprise and delight our customer when we understand the feedback that we’re being given.”

The author travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of Virtuoso.

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