Kids don’t play outside face-to-face like they used to. And as far as work goes, adults could be next. This month, LTi attended the ELFA Executive Roundtable in Miami and the 2018 National Equipment Finance Summit in Las Vegas. In a few weeks, you can find us at the 30th Annual ELFA National Funding Conference in Chicago. Not to mention we will also be prepping for our annual LTi User Conference in Omaha this summer. It’s no secret networking experiences like these have lost some appeal in this increasingly digital age. After all, innovation enabled by social media has proved nothing short of revolutionary. Video conferencing is an absolute game-changer. Help desk support continues to evolve with the power of artificial intelligence. Online customer reviews cast an spotlight on just about everything your company does, from its shining moments to its flaws.

Technology will continue to redefine the way professionals communicate, regardless of the industry they inhabit. Consequently, the question, “what can’t technology replace?” is gradually transforming into a more concerning dilemma – “what shouldn’t technology replace?” As far as face-to-face interaction with customers, its intrinsic value remains in how it fosters authenticity and transparency. Especially when building healthy relationships and leveraging new business opportunities.

INVEST IN AUTHENTICITY

Nowadays, discussions about authentication usually concern verifying user identities of a product or service. While there is obviously great reason for doing so, that doesn’t mean authenticity has lost its edge. Especially when it comes to establishing the value and purpose of customer relationships. Investing in time to meet in-person has and always will fuel the transparency, teamwork and trust needed to build loyalty. Whether it’s spent in the office, at a trade show booth or at dinner following a conference’s keynote presentation.

According to Capgemini’s FinTech Report, traditional financial institutions still hold the upper-hand over their younger tech-centric counterparts with trust. Especially concerning the topics of fraud protection, quality of service and transparency. In fact, the ease of use associated with technology may limit the effectiveness of long-term customer relationships to some extent. As simple as it may sound, showing up shows that you care due to the level of effort required. So when all that entails is logging-in or pressing send, the value of “showing up” suddenly decreases. Of course, we all want to trust the technology we use. But that trust still must be earned. This is why face-to-face interaction is still the best way to drive customer relationships to the next level.

TACKLE PAIN POINTS HEAD-ON

The growing number of opportunities presented by online reviews are too promising to ignore. From product research to operational performance, customer reviews can provide valuable insights to any company’s blueprint for the future. That being said, it’s too easy to anonymously hammer out a scathing online review and walk away like nothing happened.

In the B2B arena, troubleshooting customer pain points in person can unearth new ideas and perspectives. Face-to-face is best because this might otherwise be suppressed over a conference call or email. Sure, it might get awkward. But that’s alright if it jumpstarts the problem-solving process by pinpointing the root of the problem. More likely than not, it means you’re asking the questions everyone else is tip-toeing around. By doing this, it will get the ball rolling on the issues at hand right here, right now. Too often technology is used as a Band-Aid for critical business problems. While temporary fixes mask the trouble lingering beneath, this doesn’t remove the effectiveness of hashing out a long-term solution in-person.

USE TECH, DON’T LET IT USE YOU

Finally, no technology stack should automatically dictate how you run your business every step of the way. After all, we’re humans, prone to error. We have emotions and all kinds of variables technology is still unable to account for with accuracy and consistency. There will always be times when a video conference or messaging spree glosses over matters that could be resolved in-person. Ultimately, the customer is in control because their functionality needs define the future. So when possible, seize opportunities to get out of the office and capitalize on the time you spend with customers. Know that you’re chipping away at earning their trust and the loyalty that follows. If nothing else, appreciate this time to mix it up and have a little fun. Who knows, you might be missing it once you get back to the routine grind on Monday.

Of course, too much of anything can lead to trouble. That’s why finding the right mix of remote and face-to-face communication is vital to your success moving forward. In doing so, remember:

·         Taking the time to show up shows you care, which establishes authenticity.

·         Don’t tip-toe around customer pain points; tackle them head-on.

·         Use technology to guide decision-making, not completely control it.

At the end of the day, we’re not just a software vendor. We’re a technology partner led by humans, just like you. We like to have face-to-face interaction.

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