Human Resources, Marketing, PR & Advertising, and Small Business & Startups

Why humanizing business matters

June 28, 2019
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Elissa Sangalli Hillary. Courtesy Local First

Over the years, we have done a lot to promote the importance of local ownership.

We have data-driven facts that say supporting local businesses leads to a stronger and more equitable economy. We’ve hosted a number of events to introduce the public to our business community. And our website and social media are filled with ways to shift your spending. We also strive to humanize our community. To make consumerism more than a transaction: We want it to be a relationship.

What does this mean? To humanize consumerism? I recently had an experience that will help articulate just that.

I’ve been a member of several banks and credit unions throughout my lifetime, but I struggle to think of a better customer service experience than through our business accounts at United Bank. The tellers greet me by name and frequently ask me informed questions about our upcoming events. Not only that, but several times, I’ve had someone call me to let me know they’d noticed we could receive a better interest rate or pay fewer fees if we switched to a different type of account.

Wait. What?

Let’s pause here. This bank, who makes its money through charging interest and administration fees, is using staff time to call me (its customer) and tell me how I can give them less money. Why would they do that?

The answer: Because they know me, and they care about me as a human being. This is what humanizing means and why these types of relationships are so vital in creating economic and community resiliency.

I told this story to my colleague, Hanna Schulze, who is in charge of maintaining many important relationships for us. She had recently had her own humanizing experience with local business.

She loves to cook and often experiments with ingredients in her cooking and baking to make them more healthful. This time around, she wanted to make brownies out of a bunch of beets she had gotten from her New City Urban Farm share. She had looked up a few recipes that called for high-quality vegan dark chocolate. “Who knows about high-quality vegan chocolate?” she thought. Chris, the owner of Love’s Ice Cream! So she went to the Downtown Market to visit. He took the time to look at the recipe she was using and gave her personalized advice on what chocolate product to buy. He even made sure she only got exactly as much as she needed.

This is the kind of attentive service that you get from a local business, from that relationship. So often, our purchases are merely transactional. It’s understandable! We lead busy lives and see the convenience of online ordering. But next time you have an extra 10 or 20 minutes, why not slow down and have a conversation with the person behind the counter. About brownies and bank accounts and everything in between.