Is it a simple thing to simulate human connection?
A quick Google search for ‘the metaverse’ will give you the impression that, yes, perhaps it is. Meta’s explosive announcement of their virtual reality creation, aptly named Metaverse, back in October of last year seemed to suggest that the barriers between our physical and digital worlds were rapidly disintegrating: “Connection is evolving and so are we.”
The announcement came at such a time when we’d all been testing out remote communication out of necessity. If you moved from in-house work placement to taking Zoom meetings from your home office, you’re one of the many people who found themselves suddenly working with alternative communication methods.
It was a poor substitute for the in-person contact most were accustomed to.
Therefore, I find nothing surprising in the way most industries – including B2B – embraced the Metaverse when it was announced. A magic fix for the lack of connectedness experienced through email and Slack? A renewed experience for the customer, who could feel more “in the room” while stuck in quarantine at home? Sign us all up.
But there’s something we in the sales world are forgetting: The metaverse isn’t going to be a magic fix at all. These technologies will take time to become a viable substitute for in-person contact, and in the meantime, the human connection essential to our industry will be lost.
We need to be in search of a happy medium in which we can embrace virtual reality and other technologies as a viable sales innovation mindset, without sacrificing the human connection that is essential to our industry.
Humans Won’t Become Obsolete
Let’s erase this narrative right off the bat. Technology was never supposed to become our replacement; we were supposed to use it to amplify our abilities.
In the context of sales, VR is an incredible tool for enabling us to do just that. It can help us build empathy for our customers, as well as understand their needs in a more complete way – but it will never be able to entirely replace the human connection.
While many businesses are distracted by their new abilities to automate processes and create a glitzy VR experience, they steamroll over the very essence of sales: the human connection.
This is a huge mistake. Research shows that customers are driven by a number of high-impact emotional motivators and that fully connected customers are far more valuable to companies than those whose emotions aren’t played into at all. McKinsey & Company reminds us that healthy companies – those who can balance innovation with customer-centricity – significantly outperform their peers.
What’s more, the fundamental drivers of the customer experience have not changed in the digital age: relationships still need to be built on trust, customers want to feel understood and appreciated, and businesses must create value for their customers, all before focusing on technological innovation and bringing in new systems.
We know that digital innovation holds many uses for companies. No one can deny that. Microsoft is already harnessing the advantages of creating interactive 3D objects, and click-through rates are soaring through the roof for certain retailers thanks to immersive shopping experiences.
Artificial intelligence, however, cannot yet learn common sense. It cannot adapt in conversation the way we do or lead customers through social cues the way a human can. Our unique human touch is vital.
MORE FOR YOU
MORE FOR YOU
The Metaverse: Friend or Foe?
The metaverse will disrupt the industries we take for granted. Many think the metaverse is digital innovation at its best, and someday it may be, but not today. We’re still decades away from a world where our physical bodies are secondary to digital personas. We can’t remove the human factor from business interactions. Our push to social media has shown that online connections cannot provide the same significance as human relationships. The metaverse isn’t a friend or a foe, necessarily; it’s just a tool, and one that requires balance.
Even still, the metaverse isn’t without its advantages. In fact, PwC highlights that companies are already using VR technology with the following effects:
- Enriching the consumer experience,
- Introducing virtual products made exclusively available in the metaverse,
- Collecting new data on customers,
- Marketing both physical and digital products and services,
- Supporting metaverse payments and finance, and
- Offering hardware and applications that support metaverse activities.
At the end of the day, customers still want to talk to a person – not a chatbot. Innovation alone cannot advance businesses, and new technologies like the metaverse must not cut out the human aspect from innovation altogether.
Finding a Balance
I firmly believe the balance we need is attainable. The secret of sales of the future is now and always will be the human touch, even though businesses are constantly innovating and embracing new high-tech.
The brands who succeed in achieving this challenging balance between high-tech and high-touch are those who will win in the future of the metaverse. To find said balance, we need to think about how our entire company embraces innovation. The goal is client satisfaction and connection, but the focus should be on creating a seamless transition between reality and virtual reality.
What does that mean? Well, our 2D must smoothly transition to 3D; not in a turn-key manner, but gradually.
Rather than blindly rushing into the next big thing, we need to look critically at each new innovation and examine its potential for creating human connection. Because that’s what its utility should be to us – a vessel for better connectivity.
By no means should any technology succeed in separating us from our physical bodies and our emotional selves.