Small businesses tend to see every customer interaction as an opportunity—to build relationships, strengthen loyalty, get feedback or make a sale. But too often, the moments perceived as “personal touchpoints” are actually pain points for customers.

It’s true. Your customers don’t need or often want a live interaction with you to pay their invoice, sign a contract, or ensure their order is completed. While these personal opportunities create the illusion of connecting with customers, they’re actually just busy work holding your employees back from focusing on true growth-oriented activities—and leaving your customers frustrated by the inconsistencies of the human touch.

Done right, digitization and automation enable small businesses to forge deeper, more satisfying, and more personal connections with their customers – even if it means fewer in-person touchpoints. How? Instead of striving for “face time” with clients on mundane tasks, businesses can cultivate quality time when in-person relationships actually matter.

Misplaced Fear & “Fake” Face Time

Nearly a quarter of small business owners fear that implementing new software could reduce personal connections with customers.

It’s easy to see why, and the recent shift to more online interactions has only exacerbated that notion. But it’s not an either-or situation. It’s a blend. How can a store owner maintain personal touchpoints with customers who once frequented the store, but now shop online?

In reality, these shifts create opportunity to build a better customer experience. Perhaps the customer stopping by every Monday is drowning in errands and feels relief that they can now order online. Or, maybe the prospect considering your service saw an in-person consultation to get a quote as a barrier, so they never made the call.

Small businesses spend a lot of time on low impact tasks and “fake face time.” Unnecessary in-person meetings, or “personal” calls to customers to complete transactional tasks ultimately provides little reward.

Quality not Quantity

Tedious tasks steal a small business’s energy and creativity, making it more likely that when a customer does call or stop by, they might not get your full attention. It’s time to take that time back and focus on nurturing human relationships.

By automating administrative tasks and digital personalization, small businesses can foster human connection that drives business growth. Here are three strategies entrepreneurs can employ to become better at being “small” in the best ways:

  • Automate follow-ups to take human error out of the mix.

There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than service or delivery being interrupted due to human error, such as forgetting to renew a contract or send payment confirmation. By automating reminders for things like contract renewals and invoice payments, you’re less likely to make a mistake and more likely to establish a reputation as reliable. As a bonus, you recoup time you can invest that back into something truly customer-centric, like incorporating customer feedback into your product strategy.

  • Digitize disparate interactions to create brand consistency.

By creating a consistent and clear digital brand identity, you ensure that customers always know who is communicating with them. Brand recognition is the steppingstone to brand loyalty. This is best achieved by ensuring that your customer communications are branded with the same words, look and feel as your website, social media channels and physical footprint.

  • Dig into the data to dish up personalized insights.

The more you know about your customers, the more you can tailor solutions for them. By digitizing interactions, you can collect and analyze more data. For example, by switching from personal, direct emails welcoming new customers to an automated email drip campaign, you might learn that customers are more likely to open an email at 10:00 p.m. than 10:00 a.m. Demonstrating an understanding of customers’ unique considerations and opportunities is what small businesses do best. Because we all know that one-size doesn’t fit all, or even most.

Digitization, a More Human Approach

Digital work is here to stay, so rather than resist due to fears of losing a “personal touch,” small businesses must embrace the customer-centric benefits of new technologies. Not surprisingly, this year 46 percent of small businesses plan to invest in online payment solutions, 45 percent are embracing e-signature solutions, and 43 percent are ditching paper in favor of digital contracts. They know that customers are online, on their mobile devices and on the go—and they need to be there, too.

Over the past year, it’s been exciting to see small businesses, many of whom were previously stuck in more traditional ways of working, realize their fears are unfounded and that digitization opens the door to a more strategic, efficient, human (and humane) approach to the way they do business.

By Todd Gerber, vice president of Adobe Document Cloud

Business relationships stock image by REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock