Face to Face No Longer Required for Client Relationships

The big question today in marketing is this.

“Is the face to face contact as critical in forming client relationships as it used to be?”

Face to Face -- Essential?With today’s unprecedented connectivity over the Internet, by email, and the 24 hour presence of the smart phone, companies must now question just how much they can afford to spend on paying for face to face contact with customers.

 

Consumers complain continually about the lack of the personal touch

“I can’t get a living person on the phone!” repeats itself across America thousands of times every day. Yet companies persist in pushing the consumer to their website or requiring them to punch an endless series of numbers on the phone pad to get to the right department.

And even finally reaching the department that can help, the customer must wait for 15 minutes or more for someone to answer the phone only to get cut off!

So interacting with the Internet actually becomes a necessity for the abused customer, if not relief from the oppression!

This same stinginess of human contact finds itself in the BtoB world as well.

Travel costs so much that companies have forced their employees to travel on their own time on the weekends to save on airfare and stay in lower grade hotels that may not have such basic essentials as Internet connections. Companies have become more restrictive on the daily allowances for food and other incidentals.

But now the pressure is on to find added ways to reduce travel costs. Companies are cutting down on travel that is not absolutely required. The fact that this approach has survived and prospered gives credence to the concept that face to face time may no longer be essential to the client relationship.

Since most companies have adopted these policies with consumers and business clients, the trend has taken on such strength that companies have actually gotten away with it to a large extent. 

My take on this topic taken from a recent LinkedIn Interchange 

Note one reader’s comment and my response on LinkedIn related to the agent’s reduced role in selling some forms of insurance. 

One agent respondent said: “Often, websites that are insurance related are places for people to get quotes and you get transaction customers and not clients.“ 

 My response: “The difference is that today a face to face relationship may not be as necessary as it was in the past. 

 In my opinion, "clients" can develop relationships purely by phone and email. 

That is the reality in a highly connected world where it is hard to compete when the customer decides to make decisions based on consumer referrals provided on social marketing websites and Internet driven research. 

Clients have become acclimated to Internet research, Internet referrals and phone support from knowledgeable phone agents. 

As hard as it is to want to see it otherwise, I think it wise to rethink how "clients" make initial AND ongoing buying decisions. 

Face to face relationships do not carry the automatic assumption that your client will always rely mainly on a personal relationship to make small or even large financial commitments”

Do you think that business and consumer clients have weened themselves away from the traditional face to face sales model? Or are we missing something here? 

 

 

Posted on March 4, 2009 and filed under Customer Service, Online Marketing.