Every business is a people business

Facebook’s problems with privacy shows how all business are about people. When managers and business owners forget, their businesses are heading for trouble.

When you’re running a web based service, it’s easy to forget those valuable views and clicks are people. Facebook’s current problems are a reminder that it’s people that sit at the core of every business; as staff, management and customers.

Facebook satisfies a basic urge: our desire to share our experiences, like party and baby photos, with our friends and relatives. We don’t want to share them with some sleazy tooth whitening advertiser and certainly don’t want them shown to the entire world.

Each time Facebook makes a change that opens more data to the world, it loses a little more of their customer’s trust and while the recent Quit Facebook Day only saw a tiny fraction of users leave the service, there will be a point where most people stop trusting Facebook and look elsewhere.

It’s a classic case of a technology business not understanding the people aspect of their market.

There’s a wonderful scene in the Mad Men TV series where Kodak have a problem selling their new rotating slide projector, the advertising people fix it by telling the human story behind slide shows, that the pictures are about memory and belonging.

In a funny way Facebook is the modern slide night.

Even if you aren’t in technology, it’s easy to forget the human side of the business. For instance, the excellent plumber who walks his dirty boots through the customer’s house doesn’t get invited back.

Mix technology with business and things get worse. We get so tied up in the shiny bells and cute whistles of our toys that we forget our staff don’t know how to use those tools and our customers don’t understand them.

Big businesses are probably the worst for this. Over the weekend I came across one of the big telcos using an artificial intelligence web bot to bounce sales enquires between their equally uninformative website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. They were actually messing around potential customers who were looking to spend money.

Those managers responsible in that organisation probably think the system is working fine. Because they’ve been dazzled by the tech they’ve forgotten the whole point is to engage their customers and get them to buy something, not get them stuck in a continuous loop which adds little value to the business or the client.

Understanding the human aspect of the technology you deploy gives you the advantage over those big telcos and the hottest Silicon Valley stars. So how are you dealing with the human side of your business?

For more Tech Talk blogs, click here.

Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology issues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT investment. His PC Rescue and IT Queries websites provide free advice to business computer users and his monthly newsletter has over 3,000 subscribers.

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