Balancing High Touch with High Tech

Balancing High Touch with High Tech

Prior to co-founding Dorvie, I spent many years working in the tech sector in government and corporate roles. Too often development cycles lasted months, sometimes years. I saw countless projects done by committee, and it seemed like there was as much paperwork and process dedicated to provisioning an ID checking system as there was to building an entire aircraft carrier.

Development teams worked so hard to build bespoke platforms and custom systems for every feature of the project at hand – claiming the eventual “perfect fit” would make for better outcomes. In reality, it just slowed things down and didn’t allow for agility when needs changed. 

I knew we couldn’t replicate this when Dorvie launched. No grand notions of building out a robust tech team with blocks of developers hammering away on high-level projects every day. That kind of scenario comes with a lot of overhead, cost, and planning, which isn’t feasible when you’re a young startup still working to find product/market fit.  

Staying Agile 

What we settled into was a much leaner and more agile state where I took point on most initiatives and pulled in contractors as needed while we went through rapid cycles of iteration. We built our tech stack on platforms that are customizable and editable but have lots of out-of-the-box functionality. They’re also built on open APIs, which also makes them easier to link together.  

We don’t always get everything we want with this approach, as making something fully custom isn’t really possible with those out-of-the-box tools, but we have found ways to achieve the same goals quickly with some manual processes. We automate what makes sense and handle the rest by hand.  

For example, we created recipe-like rules that run automatically when triggered by a new customer signup.  A new signup sets off a welcome email, a scheduled onboarding meeting, and a checklist for our team to set up everything for the customer’s first month. Beyond that, we’re interfacing personally with the customer to deliver the Dorvie service experience. 

This grounded approach has been important, as we’ve identified that, for our product and customer base, walking the fine line between providing seamless tech and premier customer service is vital. It has also helped us focus on iterative user testing and learning and to avoid the trap of overdeveloping or over-designing our tech.  

Building Relationships 

At Dorvie, every customer’s first interaction is with a human being. The tech is in the background to support that human touch with automations and workflows that help move things forward smoothly. The result is an overall experience that allows us to build real relationships and trust with our partners, service providers, and members.  

In the process, we’re reacting to real-time insights from our members, which creates a feedback loop that allows the tech to be more receptive and responsive to their needs. We’ve approached building solutions with a fully experimentation-minded approach. We accepted that we won’t know out of the gate how things will work for everyone or what our growing customer base will need, so we work through small experiments and find the paths with traction.  

This started with the investigative work we did up front before even launching. We did thousands of surveys and spoke with potential customers and their families, getting feedback on our mockups, and iterating our designs to suit the market needs. Everything starts and ultimately ends with the customer.  

Lessons Learned 

It would be a much heavier lift to make changes now if at the outset we had built the tech stack in a bespoke fashion to do everything we thought customers would want it to do. There are certainly trade-offs, but we chose to sacrifice customizability for agility, and it’s helped us respond quickly to inputs.  

One very valuable piece of corporate tech I did bring to Dorvie is systems engineering processes and approaches, which allow us to test designs and strategies as well as internally pilot our own tools before we deploy them. My work in security compliance, testing, and auditing has also proven helpful as we are committed to treating our customers’ personal information with the utmost care, which is why we’re pursuing HIPAA compliance.  

As we figure out a path to scale, I’m encouraged by the landscape of available tech at our fingertips. Ten years ago, we’d be provisioning servers and trying to scale to meet estimated demand as requests flowed in. But the horizontal scaling that is available in 2023 is insane. Once we figure out the pieces and how they fit together, the infrastructure is tailor-made for small startups to be able to quickly get things up and running. We’re working more at the business logic level, with the infrastructure details all abstracted away.  

More To Come 

Dorvie’s tech will develop alongside our partnerships with Senior Living Communities and our work with more end users. We’ve already designed the infrastructure for vendor check-ins, allowing service providers to scan a barcode at a customer’s home to record they are on site performing the service and to report any issues that come up.   

We’re also deploying a service tracker that gives us line-of-site into the status of all service delivery activity so that both the Dorvie member and their loved ones will have the ability to see when providers are coming, reschedule as needed, provide feedback, and communicate with their concierge.  

That tech combined with the high touch of our concierge positions customer service as the “top layer” of our service experience, so that ultimately, interacting with service providers is seamless. It brings more trust and transparency to the process as well, further solidifying our network of providers by providing a feedback loop in which we can align the right providers with the right customers and their good work is consistently showcased.  

And while most people these days have serviceable technological proficiency, it’s always our goal to not push undue tech requirements onto the customer. Technology should be a means to an end, primarily invisible, but always secure, intuitive, and accessible. And at Dorvie, it will always walk hand-in-hand with that personalized human touch. 

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