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You can’t automate human connection

Hi there, welcome to humanfirstapproach, if you’ve come across this blog and are thinking ” What’s this all about?” let me share a little.

I’m Chi-chi Ekweozor and I am a software engineer and female tech founder, my most recent product or platform is still in the build stage but having taken the start-up journey a few times before I wanted to start this blog to share some insight into the highs and lows of being a female tech founder and some of the learnings along the way which have informed the way I develop products and services. I don’t claim to be any kind of guru or expert (is anyone?) but I do believe that sharing journeys warts and all is the best way founders can support one another.

This month I want to talk about why you can’t ‘automate human connection

The world is faster-paced than ever, technology can do it all and automation has become a dominant force in our lives – and that’s a good thing! Automation has transformed many industries, improving efficiencies for businesses everywhere, but there’s one thing it can’t do and that’s create human connection. When it comes to establishing and nurturing those all-important business relationships it’s our belief that human connection cannot be replaced.

Being Authentic

We’re told to be authentic all the time, aren’t we? Whether it’s preparing a pitch or writing an Instagram post being our true selves is important because human interactions are triggered by emotions, empathy and the ability to understand and respond to subtle cues, we can all think of a time in a meeting, at an event or even a video call where we know something landed well – or not so well and if we think back we probably couldn’t say how we knew ‘we just did’ because of those oh so subtle emotional cues that people give us when we’re in conversation. So whilst automated messaging or pre-scripted responses can be useful they can also come across as impersonal or cold and leave a feeling of disconnection.

The Trust Issue

As humans, we want to trust the people we spend time with, the people we work with and let’s face it the people we buy things from. Whilst we might be buying from a business when it’s a service-based product, our interaction is often with a person and a relationship which is built over time. The typical sales relationship is built over several interactions and building trust and rapport is something which simply can’t be done by a machine. You’ve heard it said, people buy people and there’s a reason for that: although you may sign up to buy a product online without meeting the person selling it in-person, there are multiple cues that lead you to the point of making a purchase online. Many of these factors include the hallmarks of human-to-human connection, tone of voice in written and verbal content, body language, eye contact and tone of voice in video content,  all of these factors which come together to help you decide if you feel heard and valued if you feel understood and connected to that person.

Out of Context?

Have you ever had a Teams or Slack conversation that went on forever because of a misunderstanding or lack of context, yes, us too! Meeting online and conversing in text has become the norm and for some situations that’s perfect, quick reply, time-saving, and gets the point across – brilliant! – apart from when it isn’t.

How much easier could those conversations be in person, how much smoother would be the conversation be? This is because humans (unlike machines) have the ability to adapt quickly and decisively to a mood change, to a misunderstanding, to different personalities and to respond using those interpersonal skills that only a human has and which are developed through lived experience. A machine or automation no matter how sophisticated can never replace this independent ability to give decisive responses that factor in the lived experience of the other human that can be conveyed with non-verbal and verbal cues.

Grasping The Opportunity

Have you ever had an opportunity that didn’t arise from human connection? We’ll save you some time, the answer is almost certainly no. Whether it’s a job opportunity, getting an invitation to something or even a date, there’s always been a human connection that made it happen and in making those connections happen through networking events or face-to-face meetings we create opportunities as a result. We like to think this is where the magic happens but we don’t ‘necessarily mean sales (although great if that happens!) but more so that the ultimate impact is made at the point when the connection is made.

We’ll share an example of one particular founder we know, who has never had to ‘do sales’ because every piece of business has been a referral – human connection creating opportunity right there, but beyond that, this particular founder also has a 100% success rate of converting new business – when the meeting happens in person, the stats are more like 70% when the interaction has only happened over the phone or online. Now either she’s really persuasive and engaging or it’s as simple as the human connection creates the conversion, it’s the final piece in the puzzle and in our view it simply cannot be replicated.

Automation has its place

Business development can be hard graft let’s face it, building a pipeline, finding and nurturing leads, and this is where automation has its place, registering and recording all those early less personal interactions, keeping track of dates and times and creating an accurate picture of your business development and sales landscape but it will never be able to create the final phase in the cycle – where the business really happens.  We will always need human connection to do business, genuine long-term relationships require human-to-human communication, interaction and understanding and it’s our view that they always will.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you want to hear more. I’ll be sharing regular content here plus there’ll be plenty from the team too on a range of topics relating to start-up journeys, entrepreneurship and our learnings too.

See you soon!

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