By Mari d’Antonio, Online Marketing Executive at Wolfestone

With technological advances over the past two decades, the whole environment in which business is conducted has changed beyond recognition. Whether business-to-business, or customer facing, the need for dealing directly with a representative of a company has diminished significantly. But is it really the end of face-to-face?

By far the most widespread change in the dynamic between face-to-face interactions and technology came with the advent, and increased use of the internet. Suddenly communication could be made via email, and at little to no cost. For businesses, this meant a more efficient use of their time, and hugely increased the number of businesses they could deal with closely and within a relatively short amount of time.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) was introduced, allowing Skype meetings between different companies or their employees, negating the need for them to travel sometimes thousands of miles, often at huge cost. A company in rural Devon could have a meeting with a company in New York, at no cost.

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Within business itself, services have become increasingly automated. Computer programs that receive orders, take payment, and assign delivery, have taken the place of employees; buying online now requires no face-to-face interaction.  Banking online is fast becoming the norm. Companies save money by making the process so efficient, limit mistakes from human error, and create a scalable model with little financial risk involved compared to recruiting new employees.

With technological advances, face-to-face dealings tend to become less of a focus but there are still occasions where it is necessary. An important business meeting, worth large sums of money, will always require face-to-face interaction- a necessity to gain crucial information from facial expressions, mannerisms and subtle body language.

Trust is vital and also necessary in many dealings, both business-to-business and customer facing; it is simply impossible to convey meaning or feeling fully without meeting in person. Some customers, and some businesses for that matter, are always going to prefer face-to-face interaction when it comes to business dealings.

Therefore, the key is using face-to-face business interactions on the right occasions. Even with continuing technological advances, and a lessening of the need for employees in certain roles, there will always need to be a human element to business, whether by phone, in person, or indeed face-to-face. The most successful companies will be those that find the right combination of these interactions.

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  • Some interesting thoughts Mari,

    From experience the visual and physical connection of a meeting to build trust is still very important especially when dealing with new potential clients.

    In the case of low value sales items the internet is an excellent channel to reach out to wider markets if the website is designed and constructed with the end user in mind.

    When considering high value projects that require a high level of interaction during their development and implementation the face to face meeting is important as trust is not the only element in the decision making process. Do you like the people you are going to be dealing with? Many lower cost proposals are rejected because the buyer did not like the people.

    Over the years we have provided services for clients and never physically met them, only communicating via email and VOIP as described in the article. The business is good but they form a small part of our client base. The vast majority still prefer to know us first. This may change with time but I have found that people buy from people.

    Kind regards

    Nigel T Packer