Monday, 29 March 2010

Going face-to-face with technology

It’s the age of technology where most of us expect to leverage multiple e-mail addresses, dueling text messages and voicemails, and a collection of hardware that goes out of style as fast as each new American Idol. Our business conversations include decisions such as whether or not to ‘tweet,’ how to best monitor the daily online chatter, and how to change the company avatar to better reflect the organization’s personality.

It has never been easier to stay connected in 24/7 fashion without ever leaving your favorite wi-fi hot spot. So why is it that terms like personalized service, high-touch programs and client experience continue to grow as part of some of the most poignant value propositions and customer satisfaction ratings?

Given all of the fantastic technical tools that drive our modern business lives (and they are fantastic), we seem to have lost sight of the fact that technology was meant to enhance our ability to communicate…not replace it. And never has it been able to produce the same feeling as a spirited collaboration topped off by a hearty handshake.

Building strong relationships with clients is difficult when reaching out solely in a virtual world. A study released by UCLA stated that an astounding 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by non-verbal social cues. There needs to be a sense of connection in order to appear trustworthy and credible and to have your message heard. I think the generations before us got it right. In an age when you couldn’t take your phones with you or share conversations via on-line links, it was all about that personal touch and face-to-face interaction.

Of course, the reality is that companies need to stay current with technology in order to leverage the most cost-effective, time-efficient means of conducting more business with fewer resources. Just remember – business is personal. As technology has advanced, clients are seeking opportunities to interact directly with their vendors. So carve out time to go face-to-face when you can…and leave both hands free to enjoy happy hour.


Michael Watson said...

What technology has changed in communication is the context of the interaction. If I am reading this blog sitting at my desk, in my home, wearing my pajamas - which I might be - it may not impact me the same way it would a person reading it in the office, or on the train home, or whatever. And I certainly do not get the same effect that I would if Monica was relaying her thoughts to me through conversation. Even modern video networking technology removes the context from such interactions.

Example: you are driving home from work and your favorite rock song comes on the radio. You crank the volume up and jam out in the car. It can be a fantastic feeling that gets the adrenaline flowing. All through your car stereo. That stereo is a pretty worthwhile tool. But... doesn't replace the concert. That is why bands can still today - despite the illegal file sharing, MP3's, and the death of the traditional compact disc with liner notes - charge an arm and a leg for concert tickets.

Modern technology has yet to capture "experience." Without context, there is no experience. This goes for huge events like concerts, as well as something as simple as everyday conversation.

P.S. One area where technology is inching closer to providing experience is sports broadcasts. Big screen, high definition television has become available to a good chunk of the viewing audience. Combine state of the art video with top notch audio and you create a miniature stadium experience. What's missing? The 80,000 football fans screaming along with you. But in reality, when you're at a game, you don't interact with all of the fans... just a select few. So, to solve that problem, invite a dozen friends over and suddenly you have created an experience. The TV and stereo system enables this concept, but you still need the personal interactions to complete the chain.

Monica Weir said...

These are all great points, Michael. I think your statement that 'modern technology has yet to capture experience' sums it all up. It is, however, great fun to think of what is coming down the road in the not too distant future!