In 1982, John Naisbitt, now 85 years old, published a groundbreaking book titled “Megatrends.” He is cited as an analyst and predictor of global trends for more than thirty years and his views were prescient then.
The tagline for the book was “High Tech, High Touch.” At the time, we were witnessing the revolution that the personal computer had violently begun. Those machines hadn’t yet displaced “big iron” (IBM mainframes) but it was clear that they would be a new force on the business and computing landscape, giving power to the user that she never had before.
What we now see is the logical evolution of all of those seeds of change hurrying themselves along. For a B2C transaction, for example, I can go to the local Safeway grocery store, find my stuff, check out by myself and never once interact with a Safeway employee.
I’m also a regular visitor of Amazon: I am buying things I know I might return because I can’t get enough information from its online presentation. I don’t talk to anyone. Neither of these situations represent the concept of “high touch.”
In B2B transactions, I used to have a commercial printer I worked with: he had a printing press. Now, I order my business cards from Vistaprint. I send my invoices to clients via PayPal or as a PDF.
In all of this technology, it would be easy to lose me as a customer and not even know it. “High Tech, High Touch” now means something new to me: it means that there are limits to the benefits that technology can give me as a provider or supplier: it will do a less than adequate job of telling me why my customers leave, why they refer others (or don’t) or, most importantly, why they stay.
That’s why this new book is being written: “Customer Keepers: A Toolkit for Innovators.” There are those among us who believe that, along with the higher tech, there is a need for “higher touch” as well. This kind of “on the ground” data and anecdotes are available to the big guys — the Home Depots, the Targets of the world — but smaller companies are even in deeper need of this kind of information.
All of us need to better understand what we can be doing to more effectively keep the customers who are worth keeping.