One of the common complaints (and also excuses) of so much online business is the perceived lack of ‘human service’ it represents.
Who hasn’t either complained about or been complained to about labour-saving or time-shifting technologies like those monotone Interactive Voice Response messages, voicemail, ATMs and many others.
Websites are often included amongst these faceless communication techniques because essentially you are helping yourself to ordering, purchasing or enquiring about your required product or service without so much as even a conversation with a business representative taking place.
But business operators often miss a critical point when evaluating an online channel for their business, bemoaning this lack of ‘personal service’ a website provides.
But I provide personal service…
When trying to convince one reluctant client of mine of the merits of an online presence, he often cited his preference to provide personal rather than online service to his customers.
This of course was nothing but a smokescreen. His issue was more around being in control of a customer process he understood rather than one he either didn’t have the time or inclination to bone up on.
Ironically, the same client later started a business that used the internet as its only channel to market with hugely successful results.
But I digress. The point is that offering a website isn’t denying your business the opportunity to provide business in person at all. It is simply a way of meeting the increasing demand for information about, and the opportunity to deal with, your business online.
It also speaks to two oft-quoted principles of the online world:
1. Provide your product or service in the way your customer wants it
2. If you don’t look after your customers online, your competitors will
Interestingly, in a world many perceive to be impersonal, few business operators counterbalance that by including information about themselves on their website.
To me, this doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
What better way to show that humans actually operate the business than by giving them your name and including a friendly and reasonably professional shot of yourself and/or co-operators?
So even if customers don’t make physical or real-time contact with you, they get a sense of dealing with a human and not a faceless corporation.
This leads to a double-edged customer benefit. First, that you are allowing them to deal with you in their preferred medium and, second, that you are building a relationship with them by letting them know who you are and what you look like.
In other words you are dealing directly with the business operator or their staff – even if you aren’t doing this ‘in person’ as such.
What if they don’t like the look of me?
One common objection to this approach is that customers – being human after all, may not like the look of you and be dissuaded from the purchase or enquiry.
It’s not an invalid point. Its common knowledge that people judge others and some people may well have an issue with your appearance, hairstyle, clothing, etc.
But providing you make sure your appearance is reasonably professional, I think the benefits of including your personal photo and details far outweigh the negative.
Of course, provided you can edit the website easily, you can always try it out and always delete one or both if you feel it doesn’t work for you.
Who knows, this approach may just give you the personal edge you need over your competitors.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.