Digital communication methods, such as email, texting and social media, have taken a huge bite out of the use of good, old-fashioned face-to-face dialogue. Much has been written about some of the shortcomings of digital-only communications, including the absence of facial expressions and body language that face-to-face conversations provide.
A recent study by college professors Kevin Rockmann and Gregory Northcraft also reveals that over-reliance on digital communication methods erodes empathy and trust. Since trust is a necessary component to cooperation, the absence of face-to-face interaction can negatively impact workplace team performance. Says Northcraft, “Technology has made us much more efficient but much less effective. Something is being gained, but something is being lost. The something gained is time, and the something lost is the quality of relationships. And quality of relationships matters.” (Source: TIME Magazine)
To this scholarly work, I add my own unscholarly theory: Once you meet someone in person, it’s really hard for them to be a jerk to you in future communications.
I learned this lesson in the early ’90s, very early in my professional career. I got a job supervising truck drivers for a large trucking company. My drivers were located three hours away from me and I didn’t meet any of them until I had been on the job for a couple of months. We communicated via phone and a primitive messaging system.
The other members of our “team” were the Schedulers who assigned the loads directly to my drivers. They were also located several hours away from us and were strangers whom I had never met.
A lot of my job involved being an intermediary between the drivers and the Schedulers. Drivers would push back about some of their loads and if I thought they had a legitimate point, I’d try to broker a deal with the Schedulers.The deals were rarely “win/win”, so inevitably someone felt slighted. Some of the drivers were regularly aggressive and belligerent. The two Schedulers were rude and dismissive. I could sense the eye roll in their tone of voice every time I called. It was awful!
Then I did something that was way overdue. I visited both groups of people. We got to know a little about each other. Put a face to a name. Eliminated the anonymity. Realized that we were all people and on the same team. The positive impact was noticeable. The tone of future interactions was much more respectful and it led to more productive results. All because it’s hard to be a jerk to someone you’ve met in person and, maybe as important, might have to face again.
So what does this have to do with call centers? I think this lesson can easily be applied to the relationship between a call center vendor and their clients. So much of the client/vendor interaction is done through email and phone calls. Hopefully no one is being rude, but other counterproductive qualities may creep into the relationship – maybe suspicion? Or perceived indifference?
Face-to-face communication could be just the thing to get a stale or struggling relationship back on track. In my experience it does just that. Following a client visit, there’s typically a renewed sense of trust as well as a good bump to energy levels. And the business results that follow are well worth the price of an airline ticket.
Effective communication and positive relationships with our clients are priorities for USA800. To find out how we can become your trusted partner, contact us now.