The Importance of Personal Touch in Business and Software Development Partnerships
As of 2020, we have entered into a new, far more digitalized age. Covid forced almost every area of our lives to adapt digital solutions or lag behind and suffer from the severe limitation of in-person interactions.
Before the pandemic, only a few experts had believed that digitalization would accelerate to the pace that we see today. As a result, we’re now living in a hybrid world where it’s still not easy to make sense of increasingly digitalized interactions and relations.
And this has affected sales, cooperation, and partnerships in the outsourced software development niche as well.
In this blog post, I look at how the shift towards more online and remote meetings have changed the way software developers and their customers connect and what ramifications it has on current business strategies, using some of Attrecto’s partnerships as examples.
Let’s start with the basic premise that we’ve discovered early on:
As the majority of meetings and sales calls were now taking place online as a result of the pandemic, the conversion rate of these calls started to decrease.
It wasn’t the lack of leads or prospects interested in outsourcing the development of their custom software. As the physical, in-person meetings were dropped, only to be replaced by online ones, it became increasingly difficult to convert these companies into partners and customers. Even in cases where a deal was eventually struck, the road leading to the signing of the contract was lengthy with lots of back-and-forth calls. When in-person was still available, one could progress much more smoothly and hammer out details in 2-3 meetings instead of half dozen or more online calls.
While you might already see where this is going, our business development team looked to the bottom of this to find out the underlying cause.
The business development team managed to gauge our existing partners’ attitude towards online meetings. Then, they cross-referenced the results and what they established based on these observations was not surprising at all:
“Digital connections are tolerated, but neither embraced nor accepted.”
People of all walks of life – most of them without consciously knowing – are desiring the personal touch and are not satisfied or engaged by the illusion that is provided by the online replacements for meeting with and talking to others.
There’s a raw, instinctual need for a personal interactions that can be only realized and felt in-the-flesh. And if this need is not fulfilled, it affects the quality of connections and relationships negatively, even in the more calculated and logic-driven world of business. If the personal touch is not there to catalyse a connection, businesspeople will be less enthusiastic about the prospect of a deal and less trusting about the company they’re negotiating with.
“For every new trend, there’s a countertrend.”
The quote comes from a TED talk. And based on what we’ve seen from the trend of rampant digitalization, its wisdom is especially applicable to this situation.
As people crave connections both in their jobs and private life, and in turn are met with a trend that takes those away, replacing them with virtual ones that appear on screens and come across with slightly distorted voices, a new countertrend has emerged. One that seeks to counterbalance the sheer number of digital connections and online calls.
In business, it manifests as a drive to reimagine how partnerships can work in more natural ways and make business partners stay in touch and connect in-person as regularly as possible.
We have several such examples from the past; partnerships from the previous “age” that existed before the pandemic-induced wave of digitalization, and which show how a software development company can work as closely as possible with its partners.
For instance, our partnership with Telenor Norway dates back to 2013, when we began developing Mitt Telenor for them. We have been in constant touch with the team there as the project is a continues development of the software using our TaaS model. However, as soon as the cooperation began, our teams regularly visited each other’s offices to talk business and discuss the scope and design of the software, as well as the technologies and solutions that would be used to implement it. The product owner was basically working from Norway full-time.
Ultimately, the partnership has led to 120+ successful releases, and today there are more users of this app than that of the main corporate web platform, which offers the same functionalities. Throughout the partnership, we felt that Telenor Norway considers the TaaS team as part of their own team.
They also view Attrecto not as just another service (provider) but as a trusted partner and advisor in anything software related.
We’ve had similar partnerships based on mutual trust and close-knit cooperation. We didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight, we clearly see that these connections could be formed because the human need for personal touch and interactions was fulfilled, which built trust and demonstrated that the service provider has a full team of likeable and talented professionals who are ready to work on their problems. Just to name two such additional examples, for Aegon Hungary we’ve had an on-site team that worked from Aegon’s offices twice a week, while for E.ON, we’ve had our project manager in their office, constantly keeping touch with our partner and our tech team in our offices.
On the other hand, as I’ve mentioned this in the premise, even with some of the new clients that we’ve started working with during the pandemic, the scope of development was sometimes a lot smaller than with the partners mentioned above. Of course, the vast majority of our calls were online, and thus were mostly devoid of the personal touch. As a result, neither party could build trust as the client didn’t know us well enough to involve our teams in the more challenging projects.
As you can see, that personal touch is not something that’s only required in intimate relationships, as it practically determines the quality of business relationships as well, serving as a catalyst for closing deals and increasing trust as well as cooperation.
When the ability to cultivate these personal connections was taken for granted, we built connections that resulted in more business and enabled a more responsive, authentic, comprehensive, transparent, and real relationship with out partners. We could prove to them every day that some of the most talented individuals of the software development industry work at Attrecto. Professionals whose skills are in line with modern development standards and quality processes; they know them all as their talents have been honed at Attrecto. During the pandemic, because of the countertrend of people only tolerating but not embracing digitalization while desiring human touch, we couldn’t reach the level of trust where we could truly show off our teams’ state-of-the-art expertise.
Fortunately, now that the pandemic is coming to an end and in-person meetings happen more frequently once more, we’ve already seen an increase in enthusiastic engagement and a willingness to work more closely on the success of our newfound clients.
What were your experiences regarding the lack of personal touch in business during the worst months of the pandemic?
Download your free guide for development process in UX driven projects