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Late last year, we commissioned a Voice of the Customer (VOC) survey, which provided valuable insight into what our customers want from us as a partner. One of the survey’s more notable findings was that clients wanted to see their customer representatives more often, which would enable them to develop deeper and longer business relationships.

One of Vitalyst’s strengths is the ability to take feedback and respond to it quickly. Since the survey, we have instituted a number of changes—including accelerating the shift from inside sales to outside sales and directing more of our attention toward building customer relationships in person.

Face to face communication, illustration

Research shows that when people participate in face-to-face, in-person dialog, something unique happens: Their nonverbal cues—gestures, facial expressions and movements—contribute to an increase in brain synchronization, and enable them to “read” each other.

Increasing our in-person contact enables us to provide superior customer service. It helps us communicate better with clients, and to better articulate new services and our overall roadmap. It builds trust and makes clients more willing to engage. Most importantly, it enables us understand their challenges, align with their goals and deliver exactly what they need.

Studies have shown that face-to-face communication differs from other types of communication in a number of ways. In a study conducted by Beijing Normal University, researchers found that when people participate in face-to-face, in-person dialog, their nonverbal cues—gestures, facial expressions and movements—contribute to an increase in brain synchronization.

Likewise, in research led by Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, the results show that something unique happens when people meet in person—they are able to “read” each other.

Since 2001, Pentland and his colleagues at the Human Dynamics Laboratory have been using digital technologies to understand the nature and consequences of different types of human social interaction.

Humans’ ability to read each other comes from “honest signals,” which are gestures, calls and expressions that form a “reliable communication system that serves to coordinate behavior between individuals,” he writes in an article published in American Scientist magazine (he explains the theory in depth in his first book, titled “Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World”). These signals are not only trustworthy, Pentland writes, but are also unusual because they “trigger changes in people receiving the signals, changes that are advantageous to the people who send them.”

In a recent book, “Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – The Lessons from a New Science,” Pentland expands his scope, but notes that face-to-face, nonverbal communication is still the way in which ideas spread.

At Vitalyst, we understand technology’s fundamental role in modern business, but we also recognize that humans are perhaps the most complex machines

Data also supports our hunch. Despite technological advances and wider availability of online communication, in-person meetings remain the preferred method for many. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of meeting, convention and event planners is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the 7 percent average for all occupations. As businesses become more global, in-person meetings and conventions will become even more important.

At Vitalyst, we understand technology’s fundamental role in modern business, and we will continue to rely heavily on valuable virtual collaboration tools like Skype for Business. They enable us to connect with our many clients who don’t work in their organizations’ corporate offices.

We also recognize the fact that humans are perhaps the most complex machines. We have begun increasing our attention to outside sales by hiring account managers in key markets such as Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, who are committed to meeting with every client on a regular basis. Our executive team has also made a commitment to visit customers.

Doing both ensures that the relationships we have with our clients are rich, mutually beneficial, and, above all, meaningful rather than transactional.

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