How tech supports human interaction and customer relationships in SMEs

Mike Dotson on why human relationships aren't just niceties, but drive growth and profitability for small businesses. when supported by the right tech.

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Once again, small business owners are stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

On the one hand, they are advised to invest their limited resources in new technologies, with the promise of a more convenient and efficient experience for their customers and staff. Technology kept them operational during the pandemic and to fall behind could be disastrous. 

On the other hand, they are warned not to overlook the importance of human interaction in business. They, the owner, are the heart of their business. It is the relationships that they have built with their customers, their investors and their staff that is the lifeline of their SME, and that nothing drives customer loyalty more than a personalised conversation, an anecdote or a smile. 

But are the two mutually exclusive? Can technology be balanced with – and indeed enable – human connection? 

By embracing technology, small businesses can free up invaluable resources—time and energy—which they can invest in their true differentiating factor: personal relationships. And these relationships aren’t just niceties; they lay the groundwork for a powerful community, they instill a sense of loyalty, and they ultimately drive growth and profitability. 

For example, inventory management software can allow retailers to better manage their storage requirements (such as refrigeration temperatures for food products) and stock levels, notifying them to prevent waste, understocking, flag potential errors and undertake actions. Using integrated technology, small business owners can enjoy full visibility of their backroom operations, freeing up their time – and headspace – to deliver quality customer experiences. 

An efficient digital payments system is another important tool to implement operational efficiencies for small businesses, saving time for a small business owner, and providing them with more face-time with their customers. Modern payments take many forms – tap-and-go contactless cards or mobile payments for example – all of which reduce queues and eliminate the need for physical cash or card transactions. These methods not only save time at the queue and create a more convenient customer experience, they also provide valuable data on customer spending habits and preferences, facilitating targeted marketing strategies and personalised promotions most likely to resonate with customers. 

Technology does not mean the end of your local shop, it marks the beginning of the next chapter for SME retailers. Adopting technology to assist with day-to-day retail operations can save time, energy and money, all of which can be redirected into those vital front-of-house interactions. With more efficient operations – including inventory management and digital payments – small business owners can spend more time doing what they love most: building personal relationships with their customers.

Mike Dotson headshot
Mike Dotson

With 20+ years of EMEA and USA experience developing large-scale, high-value solutions for brands including Primark, Ralph Lauren and Urban Outfitters, Mike Dotson is current Managing Director for Trust Retail, part of the Trust Payments Group.

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