Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Benefits of Meeting Face-to-Face


It has been nearly a month since I made the change. Instead of communicating through e-mails and telephone calls, I have done my best to get in front of clients and talk with them face to face. The results are amazing.

I'm not sure when I stopped doing it, but at some point the in-person meetings downgraded to something less personable. Looking back, communication on campus became more challenging because I neglected their meeting preference. I ushered it off as "an old way of thinking."

Working in technology, I find myself searching for more efficient means of doing business. If I can schedule a video conference from the comfort of my own desk, this means I can hold more meetings. More meetings in a single day means that I am doing more work, right? Unfortunately, what I didn't count on were the benefits of meeting in-person.

The Benefits
Learning the Environment
Almost immediately, I realized that I didn't know my own campus. Leaving the office to visit clients meant that I had to locate where my clients worked. As a result, I can now identify names of buildings and list individuals who work within them.

Good Customer Service
Learning the environment and walking across campus for meetings allowed me to randomly check up on people while in the area. On many occasions, my unscheduled visit provided an opportunity for clients to ask questions and seek advice on a variety of subjects. The side effect of "dropping in" left clients feeling like they were getting great customer service.

Better Health
While the weather has a lot to do with the condition by which I arrive in the office, a brisk walk is great for one's health. Over the course of a normal day, I probably walk around 30-45 minutes. Additionally, getting outside provides for a change of scenery and fresh air.

Improved Communication
Once in the client's office, I learn a lot about how they work and the environment in which they live. Watching how clients interact, both through body language and with my product, it enables me to better serve their needs. Often, the real solution to problems is not in what the client says, but rather in what they don't say. Looking at facial expressions, tapping toes, or folded arms reveals a message I never get over the phone.

Increased Trust
Watching clients is just one part of the equation because they watch me as well. When we talk, I convey a consistent message that says I care about them and the job they do. I want them to succeed.

In my business, talking about technology and the intricacies of web development often leaves clients confused. If I can demonstrate what I am trying say then I have a better chance of successfully communicating my point. The result, as I see it, is an increase in trust; Trust in me, my knowledge, my experience, and in my ability to deliver a solution to their problems.

Getting Extra Stuff
Finally, and probably most surprising, meeting with people face to face increases the chances for the "Extra Stuff." This extra stuff can be many things. It can be information about upcoming projects, inside information about new hires, or tangible gifts like food. The possibilities are endless.

Closing Thoughts
As I review my decision to get out of the office and meet with clients where they work, I remember what it was like before the change. I remember how frustrated I was when people would complain about the job we were doing. It frustrated me because we were doing a lot, but nobody seemed to know about it.

Today, thanks to the "good will tour," I think the message is finally getting out and making a difference. I understand that there is still a lot of work to do and many more people to reach, but it is working. Of that I am sure.

Hopefully, you got something out of my recent experience. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Image by Island-Life]

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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