In the work environment, even if someone is in the next office, workspace or just down the hall – how often do we get up and talk to them versus sending texts or emails back and forth? How often do we rely on email versus meeting directly with clients or getting in the middle of the customer experience?
Have you ever received a text or email and wondered, “why is this person so upset and what did I do?” Typically, you respond seeking some clarity or professing your confusion only to receive a response back that only seems to prolong, if not intensify angst. Ultimately, it is a simple case of misreading the sender’s intent. You can’t read tone or develop relationships through text or email.
This post is not intended to diminish or discredit social media, wireless technology and digital advancements in any way. To the contrary, they are tools that have a profound impact on stakeholder engagement, transparent 360 conversations with employees, customers and stakeholders and critical to building and maintaining loyalty.
But my caution, my wish, my counsel is to make sure we do not lose the art of interpersonal, face-to-face communication as part of the overall communications toolkit. Somewhere along the line, I became the “old guy.” Remember the days when in an interview, if someone said, “I’m really a people person,” that was essentially an interview kiss of death. Today, I’d be excited to hear that and want to learn more. It’s a little like being a gentleman: you once stood out if you weren’t, today you stand out if you are. So while developing strategic plans, make sure you complement your communications strategy with true, direct interaction. Why?
- You cannot read tone, body language or facial expressions unless you are in person.
- Effective relationships are the backbone of good sales. Get to know your prospects. You’ll develop deeper relationships and manage them more effectively. You might get an earlier heads up to an issue or opportunity.
- Collaboration is still a dynamic tool to successful ideas, plans and executions. Getting in front of your team, client, or customer may uncover an extra business insight, potential pitfall or new piece of knowledge that will pay off later.
- Use positive reinforcement as a critical motivational tool. Ever had someone unexpectedly call you by name and remember some important fact or story and how nice it made you feel? Do that with employees, vendors, customers and you are creating meaningful relationships.
- Don’t lose touch with your customers. Data is great. Community engagement is critical. 360 online conversations are fantastic. But don’t forget to get out and see things first hand to validate or alter what other information suggests.
- Use social to be social. Online creates great opportunities for introductions, conversations starters, ongoing dialogue, community building, problem solving and so much more. But always seek a way to bring the direct human equation into the mix. True relationships thrive on this.
I speak from experience here, having recently accepted the Managing Director role with Worldcom Public Relations Group. We are a global partnership of top-notch PR agencies individually and collectively doing great work. The partnership offers us great resources from both thought leadership and vast geographic reach for existing clients and new business pitches. We connect and communicate frequently online, but our most profound relationships develop during our fall and spring meetings. I’ve met and gotten to know partners from meetings, presentations and hallway and dinner conversations that give much deeper insight into their practices and talents, and I know for sure these personal interactions lead to partners working together to earn and produce world class PR work.
Text, email, leverage every social outlet and tool at your disposal. Use them to listen, to communicate, build communities and advance online CRM and loyalty. But don’t forget to take the time to walk down the hall and speak directly, go visit a client or go engage with your customer in the sales environment. You will validate, alter, improve perception and just may enjoy the interaction.