For companies in the digital age, there is a whole host of technologies that facilitate virtual interaction with customers. Email, Skype, Webex, GoToMeeting, texting, social media – heck, even the phone. And we use them in the name of efficiency. To save valuable time for ourselves and our clients. But what are we sacrificing?
No matter what we sell, we’re all in the business of serving people. And in the B2B space, we’re talking important decision makers and products and services with bigger price tags. Which means there’s more at stake.
Sure, conference calls and instant messages are convenient, but as Rene Shimada Siegel points out in an article for inc.com, we’re only going to be successful if we truly get to know our customers and colleagues. Face-to-face. In person. Here are five reasons why real, live meetings trump virtual ones.
1. You’re off the record
In-person meetings give customers an opportunity to be candid – something that can be hard to do via email (where there’s always a digital trail) or if they work in a cubicle that lacks privacy. Grabbing lunch off-site or walking around the block can help them feel more free to share what’s on their mind, which will help you do your job better.
2. You can build a better business relationship
When you’re the one trying to keep a customer happy, you’re often focused on solving problems quickly and efficiently. It’s easy to forget about the person on the receiving end. Relationships are cultivated when people take time to share and learn more about one another, and that’s hard to do when conversations are compartmentalized by text or email. Meeting in-person allows you to chat about shared interests with your clients and further cement that interpersonal bond, which in turn makes your business relationship stronger.
3. You can make an impression
What is it about you and your company that makes people want to do business with you? Here at Tartan, clients and vendors alike love to stop by so they can meet our adorable mascot, Fergie. And when we go off-site for a client presentation, we like to bring along our trademark Tartan Tees for those attending. We’d be hard-pressed to successfully do either of those things with a GoToMeeting.
4. You can read body language
It’s terribly cliché, but true: actions speak louder than words. Seeing a client’s visceral reaction to new ad concepts is far more telling than reading it in an email. Being there in person allows you to perceive expressions and voice inflections that just aren’t visible when you’re only getting one sensory input (either the written words or just the audio). Responding to their concerns is easier as a result.
5. You can see where the action is
Seeing your clients in their natural habitat speaks volumes about who they are as an organization. Can you feel a buzz of energy in the air? Is the reception area bright and inviting? Understanding company dynamics will help you better meet their needs. Clients can learn the same things by coming to you, as well. Consider how your physical space represents you and your brand – is it giving the impression you want it to give?
As an organization with clients all over the country, we know in-person meetings aren’t always viable – for many reasons. And we rely heavily on many of the tools mentioned above to complete projects in a timely, cost-effective manner. But the importance of that face-to-face interaction can’t be overstated. In fact, it should be employed as often as humanly possible. Because at the end of the day, we’re people. Serving other people. And those people want to work with someone they can relate to – not just buy from.
Is meeting customers in-person a priority for your organization? Do you find it helps foster stronger relationships? Why or why not?