By Kent Hamaker, Director of Education, Communications, and Benchmarking, Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF)
Association staffers do most of their work with clients via long distance methods: conference calls, emails, texts, and websites like Basecamp. These technological wonders are necessities, of course, and make possible the work we are hired to do. But amidst the overwhelming chaos of the information we have to manage we too easily forget the benefits and importance of meeting our clients face to face.
The value of meeting face to face was highlighted for me when I first traveled to a local chapter’s education event. The simple act of smiling and shaking hands with those I had been speaking with on the phone and emailing for months previous was like a homecoming of sorts. There was a feeling of solidarity and mutual support for the journey we were taking together. Since that first visit, I have tried to take every opportunity available to meet with our clients face to face, as the value has proved to be worth the cost and effort. Here are some of the advantages of face to face as opposed to long distance communication:
Face to face interaction gives you the ability to build client relationships. It helps to build camaraderie, credibility, and trust. It helps to generate a collaborative environment and generates a positive emotional environment. In a survey by Forbes that spoke to 760 business executives, 84% preferred face to face communication. Out of those, 85% said their reason was that it builds stronger, more meaningful business relationships. Respondents of the survey also said face to face meetings are best for persuasion (91%), leadership (87%), and engagement (86%).
James Borg, author of “Body Language: How to Know What’s REALLY Being Said,” says that human communication consists of 93% body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% consists of words. Just like action, body language speaks much louder than words; you can gain a better understanding of how a client is feeling than through your regular means of communication.
We’ve all had the experience of misunderstanding or being misunderstood or misread on an email or online discussion. In-person meetings give us an opportunity to revisit and realign those misunderstandings while laying the groundwork for avoiding or constructively approaching future misconceptions.
For just about all of us, budgets are tight, but traveling to meet your client face to face shows them that they are worth the effort in attempting to provide exceptional service. Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts surveyed more than 2,000 men and women in the UK, US, United Arab Emirates, China, and India to dig into how the business world perceives face-to-face meetings, and the findings are positive for all meeting professionals. Here’s a look at two key takeaways:
- • 81 percent of business professionals believe face-to-face meetings are better for building long-term trust and ensuring strong client relationships.
- • 47 percent believe they have lost a contract or client because they didn’t make enough in-person time to develop their relationships.
My advice is to make an effort to meet with your associations’ clients face to face. You’ll have each other’s full attention and both sides are guaranteed to be heard and understood more fully. This may mean thoughtfully adjusting your budget to put funds aside for appropriate travel expenses. When doing this, try to remember that even one meeting is better than none, and the return on investment in building trust results in higher morale, productivity, and deeper relationships.
David; “Advantages and Disadvantages of Face to Face Communication;” April 15, 2013 starmedical.co.uk
David McMillin; “See Why Face to Face is More Important than Ever Before;” November 18, 2013; pcma.org