Zoom contact centre

When FaceTime is as good as face time

Video conferencing arrived during the pandemic and it's here to stay, says Billy Billy MacInnes
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Image: Zoom

16 March 2022

Here in Ireland, we set great store on personal interaction. People like to meet each other, to sit in the same room, to talk to each other face-to-face. It’s an integral part of the Irish character. People are generally more sociable here than their counterparts in the US or the UK, they like to talk, to connect with the people they are doing business with. Everybody knows everybody. If they don’t know you, they soon will.

The advent of mobile phones, e-mail, e-commerce and websites were perceived as serious threats to Ireland’s way of doing business with its reliance on face-to-face communication. And there’s no doubt that it has been affected but the personal is still very important for Irish people.

For the past two years, however, the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown pretty much killed off face-to-face meetings. Zoom, Teams and even FaceTime meetings took their place and worked quite effectively for many. Now that we are emerging from that period of isolation, there is an understandable desire from people to get personal again, to go to events, sports matches, concerts, pubs and clubs.

 

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But it’s also true to say that lockdown created and solidified a hierarchy of interactions for people and businesses. Yes, we already had e-mail and phone communication but video conferencing and virtual meetings were only really adopted widely during lockdown. Physical events and face-to-face meetings, previously considered to be the pinnacle for B2B and business to customer interactions, were non-existent. Most forms of business travel became a rarity rather than a daily occurrence.

Here we are in March 2022 and it’s clear much of that hierarchy could persist beyond the end of lockdown. Face-to-face meetings and events may appear attractive to people who have been kept in relative isolation for two years but that doesn’t mean there will be a mass rush to revive them.

If anything, by inserting an additional layer between e-mail/voice and face-to-face connection, the ascendency of video and virtual meetings demonstrated that physical meetings were far less vital to day-to-day business than we had always believed. Lockdown proved that the orthodox business belief in the nirvana of in-person meetings was not reflected by the reality.

At the same time, the rarity of physical meetings also highlighted that they were far more valuable when they did occur. In other words, if a company needs to have a face-to-face interaction with another company or customer it’s because it can’t do that business by any other means.

There are potential pitfalls with the increased reliance on distanced communication, such as a dropped call or poor Internet connection. A point made by Kyocera Document Solutions UK president and CEO Rod Tonna-Barthet in a recent press release extolling the value of face-to-face communication in the B2B business process.

He accepts that technology should “be used extensively when it is sensible to do so, but the value of face-to-face interaction can never be understated. At a time when societies and the world are opening up again, embracing in-person meetings is sure to yield success”.

But perhaps it’s not quite as clear cut as that. The lockdown prompted organisations to adopt new ways of working and communicating to replace in-person meetings and office working. For many, those methods are now part of the fabric of how they operate on a daily basis. In addition, climate concerns are likely to have an effect on any wholesale attempt to revive either to the same extent as before. All that travel isn’t really sustainable. Besides, with the price of fuel on the rise, it’s also increasingly expensive.

This will reinforce the trend towards face-to-face meetings being decided much more on value and quality. That’s a reality that channel partners in particular should be able to appreciate and adapt to.


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