A Brand Differentiator: Separate High-tech and High-touch


We can separate brand interactions into two categories:

  1. High-tech Interactions—websites, apps, social media, and other digital sources
  2. High-touch interactions—phone, in-person, and other analog interactions, such as print
The strongest brands keep High-tech and High-touch as far apart as possible.
Starbucks serves as another example of a brand that separates High-tech from High-touch interactions.

Starbucks serves as another example of a brand that separates High-tech from High-touch interactions.

For example, my wife and I recently had our credit cards stolen. I called our credit card company immediately, and on the second ring reached a real human being. In addition to sounding genuinely sorry about what happened, he quickly shut down our old card and issued new ones that we received the next day.

Our credit card company also provides an easy-to-use online platform that efficiently addresses my everyday needs. I can get into the site, review charges, and pay a bill in a few minutes. 

My credit card company insulates High-touch and High-tech interactions. My High-touch phone call didn’t require me to interact with technology, and my Hi-tech online experiences are so intuitive I don’t need to engage a real human. 

Lesser brands allow High-tech and High-touch co-mingle.

For example, I needed to book our airline tickets well in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. I spent the better part of two hours trying to use our air miles to purchase the tickets. Frustrated by a host of complications, I phoned the airline. The person helping me was nice enough, but informed me that I’d have to pay an additional $25 for each of the five tickets.

What can the airline learn from my credit card company?

Increasingly so, we can assume most customers prefer an intuitive, efficient High-tech experience. In and out. No headaches.

But when our customers need personal attention—they can’t find what they need on the website or through an app, or they just prefer human interaction—provide them with a memorable, high-touch interaction.

What if the airline offered a discount for booking travel by phone? They should view these high-touch interactions, not as a drain on their profits, but as a rare opportunity to build loyalty. In highly competitive industries, like the airline industry, this kind of High-touch experience differentiate brands from everyone else.

Differentiate your brand. Offer exceptional High-tech and High-touch experiences. But don't try to make one do the other's heavy lifting just because it's more convenient for you.

Andrew Robinson