by Ulrich Kellerer, author of “One Moment Can Change Your Life!: Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary People“
Let’s face it: in today’s digital age, face-to-face communication occurs less often among busy small business owners. Sadly, personal interactions seem to be a bit of a dying art.
In fact, unless you are in a service-based industry, such as a coffee shop or small medical practice where your clients are required to see you in person, you most likely depend on digital tools – email, texting, video conferencing and social media – for the majority of your customer interactions.
According to a Constant Contact statistic, an estimated 66 percent of small business owners depend on mobile devices to manage their operations. And a Brother International Corporation study found that there’s been an 18 percent uptick in small business technology spending since 2010.
While no one can deny the convenience of digital communication tools and their importance to today’s entrepreneurs and small businesses, there’s still something powerful about face-to-face interactions they simply can’t replicate.
Obviously, many technologies can help us boost productivity and enhance efficiencies, but I believe it’s our intensifying relationship with all-things-digital that can send us down a path to unhealthy habits. As an author, communication expert and international speaker, I strongly believe this growing reliance on technology can hamper effective communication, especially if it ends up as a permanent substitute for face-to-face interaction.
The Human Element is Still Best.
Smartphones, tablets and laptops all contribute to a reduction in the number of face-to-face interactions we have with customers today. For most busy small business owners, it is much easier to ping someone via a text message than take the time to pick up the phone. While texting and emailing are certainly beneficial with regards to efficiency, there is also real value in face-to-face dialogue as it helps establish better relationships with each other and our customers.
Being in the presence of others can help us understand what they are actually saying. It also allows us to better read body language, non-verbal and emotional cues, and craft more appropriate responses. With a face-to-face communication strategy, you can reduce any misunderstandings. There are also more opportunities for further clarification.
Finally, communicating with customers’ in-person gives us the chance to recognize genuine reactions and to use body language as cues. I believe this ultimately helps establish trust and more meaningful connections.
Are You Really ‘Seeing’ Your Customers?
The bottom line: communicating with customers still requires input from humans, and it always will if we want to do it successfully.
The key is to realize that even the best technology and digital communication tools are only as good and effective as the people using them. The truth is, with great power comes great responsibility – and only entrepreneurs and small business owners themselves can take charge of using smartphones to their advantage.
In my experience, it’s through those personal, face-to-face meetings – where you get to shake their hand and look them in the eyes – that the strongest, long-term customer partnerships are established.
Ulrich Kellerer is an inspirational business leader, international speaker and mental health activist from Munich, Germany. For over 20 years, Kellerer worked in the European fashion industry as the founder and CEO of the German clothing line, Faro Fashion. Kellerer is the co-author of “The Soul of Success: The Jack Canfield Story” and author of “One Moment Can Change Your Life!: Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary People“.