When you interview people for a living, you’re not usually surprised by responses. After 38 years of curiosity, there’s not much that surprises me. But when I reflect on the breakneck speed at which the business world is embracing all things artificial, a lighthouse beacon went off in my brain.

When I interviewed Hall of Fame basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell for my leadership book, I recognized a particular trait that she utilized with everyone in her program, and it was a cornerstone for her success.

No matter if it were the student intern who was folding uniforms and placing them in the players’ lockers, or the president of the university, Hatchell had an uncanny knack for how to successfully navigate their personalities. She was able to extract their best attitude and their best effort.

As a coach myself, and as a husband with three daughters, I asked the question both for the book project as well as for selfish reasons. “How do you successfully relate to so many different personalities during the course of your day?”

Hatchell replied with a question of her own. “Did you ever read The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman?”

Small business owners are trying to navigate new technologies while trying to balance that with what their gut might be telling them about certain parts of their business. For example, AI isn’t going to motivate your team members. AI isn’t going to reach out and touch someone to appropriately thank a loyal customer. And AI certainly can’t provide the kind of customer service exemplified in my partner Chris Torbay’s awesome new radio spot.

I recommend small business owners slow their roll with new technology until we really know what we have. As we have witnessed, unfortunately too often, is that we’re told grand ideas that more often than not turn out to be false. So, while all the tech weenies in the world are geeking out about AI and other technological wonders, it’s probably better to take a cautious examination of how new technologies can propel your business forward without losing touch with important tactics that will continue to make a difference for decades to come.

Dr. Chapman outlines the five love languages as: Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, and Physical Touch. No, I’m not going to review each of the five. Essentially, Dr. Chapman writes about the fact that husbands and wives usually have different love languages. His premise is that in order to have a fabulous marriage, you need to figure out your own love language, and then uncover the love language of your spouse.

Coach Hatchell took this teaching into her day-to-day interactions as the CEO of her basketball operation. She described it to me in simple terms. Every human has a specific way in which they accept praise, and conversely, each human has a specific manner in which they accept criticism.

Coach Hatchell invested significant time to figure out all of the adults that she encountered every day. Before every season, she went through the same exercise with every player on her roster. Watching her interact with a variety of people during the course of a day was a great lesson and a great joy.

How does that work for small business owners? How do you motivate your team members to be the best that they can be? How do you constructively criticize a team member who’s strayed from the path? How do you coach your CSRs to answer the phone and conduct a meaningful conversation? How do you create lasting bonds with your customers through your marketing strategies? How do you and your team interact, in person, with customers, clients, and vendors? How do you become the household name in your space that customers trust, know, and like? AI isn’t helping you answer any of these questions.

When it comes to the personal touch in employee optimization, I’m going to refer you to my awesome partner, Paul Boomer. I’m interested in how the personal touch impacts your marketing efforts.

In an article on Business.com, it’s suggested early in the piece that “adding the personal touch to your marketing efforts can be the difference between success and failure.” Yes, there is a place in your marketing strategy to employ digital marketing, online advertising, social media, etc. However, ignoring opportunities to have human contact with your customers is at your own peril. Even something as simple as using a person’s first name when you address them makes a significant impact.

The Business.com article listed the five primary benefits of consistent human contact in your marketing efforts:

  1. A personal touch puts a face to your business.
  2. A personal touch creates strong emotional bonds.
  3. A personal touch gives you a competitive edge.
  4. A personal touch encourages customer loyalty.
  5. A personal touch fosters trust.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer or potential customer… would you prefer to associate with a human or a faceless storefront? Would you prefer to receive a ‘Happy Birthday’ email or be seen as just another number? Would you feel more valued if you were able to speak to a human about your situation, or put in an endless telephone queue? Would you have more loyalty to a business with whom you have a deeper customer relationship? Would you have more trust in a human who backs up what they tell you they’re going to do?

If you’re searching for a partner to tell your story in a way that other humans will relate to you and bond with you, email me. That’s my superpower.

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