The Human Element

Why is the human element important? Why should your business care?

You can compete with price. You can compete with design. You can compete with reliability. So why would you want to compete on the human front? Why is it important that you win this particular war?

Feeling cannot be given a price tag, so the human element is the only business strategy that is not subject to commodification and price war. It makes people feel good to be appreciated, it cannot be scaled (which means money can’t buy it), and once your customers are getting it, it’s something your customers don’t want to lose.

This means that intimacy allows smaller businesses to compete with larger ones by acting in ways larger organizations cannot. It cannot be competed against directly, the same way friends can’t “compete” against each other for your affection. The game becomes “with,” not “instead of.”

You have to focus where you can win. McDonald’s makes a burger faster than your local joint, and it’s more consistent– and some people want that. But for those that want an experience and a feeling of coming somewhere special, no McDonald’s or Starbucks will do, nor will any contrived substitute.

So offer them what they really want. Make your staff genuinely charming. Make them do something special for people who are regulars, not just “loyalty programs.” And a special kind of person will, in fact, come.





4 responses to “The Human Element”

  1. Lisa Yallamas Avatar
    Lisa Yallamas

    Thanks for the link to your podcasts. Enjoy listening to them. When did you stop doing podcasts? It’s funny to listen to old podcasts eg. 7 plagues of mankind when you talk about wanting to always podcast.
    Did social media replace podcasting?

    Totally agree about the human element. My dad ran a takeaway in competition with McDonalds in the middle of a recession on the basis of service and quality.

  2. Deborah Avatar

    The clue is in “genuinely”. It has to be real. I had to call my bank about something. The person on the end of the phone asked if she could call me Deborah [a little familiar] and then began using my name in every second sentence. Then she asked if she could wish me happy birthday… it was the next week. Creeped me out. Not sure I’m over it. Genuinely charming is hard to institutionalize.

  3. Mark Weatherley Avatar
    Mark Weatherley


    You hit the nail on the head. We all like to be treated like people and go where we are.


  4. CT Moore Avatar

    Peace of mind is something that’s hard to put a price tag on, and that’s probably why it evades 4-Ps analysis. But yeah, I am willing to pay a little more to know that I’m dealing with another human being (or community). Part of that is knowing that I can actually reach someone if I need to, but part of it has to do with the community itself: I’d rather support a community (of employees, etc.) than a faceless commercial entity.

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