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Why technology can never replace the value of face-to-face time

The advances in communication and information technology have revolutionised the way we conduct business, giving companies large and small the opportunity to have a global reach and success. But it has also had a profound effect on the way we interact with clients. We take a look at how technology has transformed the business world and why meeting with clients is still so crucial.

Can you remember what it was like with limited technology?

There are things today that we take for granted. In fact, it's hard to believe that we ever survived without them – for instance, what would we do without the Internet or any of the following for that matter?:

  • Personal computers/laptops/tablets
  • The Internet/websites/email
  • Mobile phones/Blackberries/smartphones
  • Networks
  • Wireless communication
  • Video conferencing
  • Social media

All this technology has had a transformative effect for businesses, and not just the large corporates. It's made time zones irrelevant and provided a global workspace for businesses large and small.

Why companies have embraced change

It's not hard to see why companies have and still are adapting and adopting these new technologies...

Email

Email means companies can build online relationships, communicate instantly and share files.

Portable devices

Laptops, Blackberries, smartphones and tablets make the office mobile allowing users to store files and access the Internet remotely. And with more and more companies embracing Cloud technology, information is accessible from anywhere through any device.

Social media

The likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram have enabled businesses to talk directly to their customers, give their brand/product a voice and generate brand warmth through better customer service. And with more than two billion active social media accounts worldwide, accounting for 29% of the World's population*, it makes good business sense.

Wireless communication

Quite simply wireless has transformed the way we live and work. It has given us the flexibility to access documents, emails, applications and other network resources that mean we can do our jobs on the move. Plus it's availability means that businesses like cafés, restaurants and hotels can you use it as a value-added benefit.

Virtual meetings

Web conferencing is an easy and cost-effective way to communicate with everyone from any location, in fact 32%† of all meetings are conducted virtually. The more complex offerings allow users to record meetings, share screens and have remote desktop control, while the likes of Skype and Google Hangouts offer free, no-frills options.

Your virtual profile can never be as good as you in person

It's all very well having this technology and the flexibility to travel the world from the comfort of your office. Sure you might find your next business partner through LinkedIn, but for centuries we have been nurturing client relationships and building trust through face-to-face (f2f) meetings. Your credentials may look attractive online, but you will always come across much better in person.

Let your body do the talking

In Psychologist Albert Mehrabian's theory about speech, he says that words only account for 7% of human communication. The remaining percentage is made up from tone of voice (38%) and over half (55%) is to do with our facial expressions, body language and gestures‡.

Getting to know your clients on a one-to-one basis helps build trust and can give you the competitive edge. Imagine bidding for business over Skype, in the knowledge that the competing company had travelled to be there in person – who would you give the business to?

Technology is evolving to have more human elements... Simple things like emoticons and abbreviations can help express moods or feelings – and prevent multimodal statements from being ambiguous. But there is compelling evidence to suggest that, although useful, they still don't have the same impact as talking to someone in person.

Business travel is here to stay

In a study by Oxford Economics¥, it revealed that of the executives and business travellers surveyed, 28% of current business would be lost without in-person meetings. It also showed that 40% of prospective customers are converted by f2f meetings compared to the 16% without, and that 63% believe virtual meetings are less effective.

We're not saying it's one or the other: f2f or technology. Far from it. Today's businesses depend on technology but combine them together and you'll have long-lasting business relationships and the makings of a very powerful communications strategy.

To find out how CTM can work with your corporate travel programme, simply get in touch by emailing enquiries@ctm.travel or give us a call on 0845 470 8702.

Sources: *Digital, social and mobile worldwide in 2015, We Are Social; †Death of the web conference (as we know it), Ovum/Join.me/Log Me In Inc; ‡Meharabian's Communication Research, Businessballs; ¥The Return on Investments of US Business Travel, Oxford Economics USA.

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