From the April 2008 issue of Entrepreneur

Amy treated each of her vacation rental guests with respect and ensured that they had an enjoyable time. About six months into her venture, a guest cancelled his reservation only a day before his arrival date. To make matters worse, he demanded his nonrefundable security deposit back.

Amy was annoyed with the request because she couldn't rebook the dates at the last minute. After taking a couple of hours to let the emotion pass, she reassessed the situation. She realized that, up to that point, their business relationship had been solely electronic and therefore impersonal. Rather than e-mail her customer, Amy decided to pick up the phone and contact him personally. She still wanted his business and offered to apply 50 percent of his rental deposit to a future booking.

 

The customer appreciated the direct human contact and accepted Amy's proposal. He rebooked the vacation rental for a later date and recommended the rental to his family and friends, who brought in weeks of new business.

 

With advances in technology, we're seeing an increase in personal isolation in our businesses. Because of e-mail, IM and even text messaging, there's been a steep decline in the amount of personal contact we have with customers. We're dehumanizing even service businesses.

 

Increasing the level of personal interaction you have with your clients enriches your perspective and bolsters your creativity. Thoughtful, personal connections produce new ideas that keep you motivated to move forward--and they can generate amazing results for your business.

 

Blend technology with human decision. To succeed, you have to communicate efficiently through e-mail, Web 2.0 technologies and all the new media becoming available every day. Automation keeps data and customers current and can assist with your decision-making process. However, as a human, you have the power to reason out and resolve a problem before it becomes an insurmountable obstacle. It's your interpretation of information that creates unique growth strategies.

 

Respect others' points of view. Take time to find out who people are and what they like. Showing interest and involving others inspires them to share ideas and tactics that can improve your business. Put yourself in the place of the person with whom you're dealing. It helps personalize the communication process--and people will appreciate being treated as individuals.

 

Become a director of experiences. Seek ways to engage people in your business experience. Make it a priority to regularly meet with your customers and colleagues in person, especially in the early stages of new product development. When people are immersed in an experience, their overall understanding increases. They get a taste your success, and this encourages them to become fully involved. Personal, direct contact keeps you sane and helps your business stand apart from the competition.

 

Advocate for others' goals. Be a good friend by acknowledging and supporting your colleagues' efforts. People may forget what you said to them, but they never forget how you made them feel. Appreciation heightens the richness of human interactions. If you can support someone else's efforts through a personal recommendation or contact, do it. A simple five-minute call can nurture a relationship that will support your success for years to come.

 

Honor and cherish your personal commitments. Embrace the power that your human support system provides, and consistently maintain it. Feeling connected to others, especially as an entrepreneur, contributes greatly to your overall success.

Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write to him at romanus@kickstartguy.com.