In-person interaction is important for building business relationships

When managing your small business, you’re always looking for better ways to foster solid relationships with clients. Personal connection is key – you want your customers to see your human side rather than think of your company as a nameless, faceless entity. The problem is that with a busy schedule, it can be difficult to stay connected with everyone, and it’s hard to really give a personal touch simply by placing the periodic phone call or email.

The truth is that people prefer face-to-face meetings. In a survey, Embassy Suites found that there’s overwhelming support for the idea of businesses giving their clients authentic face time. Of business travelers polled by Embassy, 97 percent said face-to-face interaction was “the most important part of developing and maintaining strong client relationships,” and 53 percent said they were increasing their in-person meetings with clients compared to previous years.

“Face-to-face meetings are irreplaceable when it comes to the health of client relationships,” business travel strategist Joel Widzer said. “We connect with our clients better when we are able to meet in person, which certainly makes it worth taking that business trip on a regular basis.”

The sad reality, though, is that traveling to meet with clients is often an implausible idea. It’s an enormous drain on time and money – meeting with one client in person might sap the resources you need to meet with five others over the phone. It’s a very difficult balancing act for companies, and some are really struggling to keep up. Embassy found that 17 percent of business travelers have lost a client in the last year because they were unable to travel.

Perhaps the middle ground is video conferencing – it’s personal in the sense that it offers one type of face-to-face interaction, but it’s not so personal that it drains a company’s resources. BizTech magazine recently extolled the virtues of video conferencing software, noting that it’s fundamentally changed the business world. Recent innovations have improved the technology, the news source explained – problems like latency and jittery web connections have become a thing of the past, making video chats more viable now than ever.

It’s not a perfect solution. At the end of the day, your clients will still prefer true in-person interaction, and it’s hard to blame them. The key is to find a compromise – either meet with more clients in person, or find ways to foster relationships more cheaply and efficiently without losing the personal touch. Which method works for you?

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