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When Digital Becomes Human

In case you missed it, last week we kicked off a new series of blog posts which will see us reviewing a bunch of digital media related books, pulling out the best bits and sharing them right here on our blog. This week we’re giving you a summary of When Digital Becomes Human, written by Steven Van Belleghem and read by Alex Sayers. So let’s dive in to how he got on, allow me to pass you into the very capable hands of the man himself.

(In Alex’s own words this picture ‘really captured how much I love my book’)


So what did I think?

WDBH explains how big businesses have found success by making their digital personas more human, and using the lessons learned from decades of customer service to help their online services match a modern consumer’s ever-rising expectations. Informative, with a wealth of case studies and real-world examples, I certainly enjoyed the book as Van Belleghem shows how the digital world’s shift towards human has benefitted both businesses and customers, but also reveals that there is still a long way to go.


Human service is better service

Van Belleghem believes that as more and more businesses switch to purely digital channels for their customer service, the remaining human interaction on offer will become more valuable. Many brands have made the switch to online communication to save time, provide a smoother service, and to appear more modern – but the relative scarcity of human customer service means that it is now worth more to customers, and often perceived as the sign of a more exclusive company.

In marketing terms, it is clearly important to provide the communication channels that customers want to use, and adapt to their use, not simply provide similar services as your competitors.


Invest in your sales process

Around 48% of customers abandon the online purchase process as soon as they experience any problems or have a negative experience. Such a high percentage confirms the importance of having a well thought-out sales function, and good customer service with quick response times. In a practical sense, this shows how crucial it is to test online systems thoroughly and to take on board customer feedback to make processes as streamlined and supported as possible.


Don’t compare yourself to your competitors

Businesses should look outside of their industry for companies to compare themselves to, as customers do not always compare like for like. WHBD gives the example of a customer who can call up and book holidays over the phone 24/7, but is then frustrated because their bank only operates customer service lines from 9-5. Rightly or wrongly, customers now expect all businesses to live up to the highest standards, and businesses should compare themselves to the very best, not just their closest competitors.


All you need is the option

More than 75% of customers want human interaction to be available even if digital platforms are working perfectly – whether to get quick answers, avoid sometimes complicated online systems, or as a safety net for when things go wrong. Similar to the previous example, although many of us are happy with online banking, and will use smartphone apps or our computers to check balances and make payments, few people would be happy if their bank offered no phone support at all, and had no possible human customer service options. This shows that despite digital being everywhere in our lives, and most people now being comfortable with doing business online, many of us still want or need a human element in customer service.


Marketing, straight from the heart

WDBH refers to the term “heartketing” – a combination of responsible business practices, marketing, and PR. Essentially, it is marketing done to promote the ethics of your business, rather than your brand or products. The example given of a company that employs “heartketing” is CVS, the American pharmacy chain. CVS decided to stop selling cigarettes, despite them representing a sizeable chunk of their profits, because they concluded that it would help to promote them as a healthy family-friendly brand. What was a big risk for the company actually ended up improving their image, boosting consumer trust in the company (as measured by market research) and improve brand loyalty.

Further research on a similar subject has shown that 7/10 customers in Asia are happy to pay more for the same product from a company with a “good heart” – proving that in this region at least brand image is an important part of people’s purchasing decisions. In marketing terms, these stats show the importance of maintaining a good image, and also show that even more well-established traditional businesses can take risks with their image to revitalise it for modern audiences.


Fancy giving the book a read? Find it here.