Online communication is all very well, but when it comes to face-to-face meetings, it’s the little things that can make all the difference.when it comes to face-to-face meetings, it’s the little things that can make all the difference
In these days of instant communication, when messages bounce off screens and mobile phones at the speed of light and so many transactions and connections happen online, it’s sometimes easy to forget that personal relationships are still a vital part of business life.
That first face-to-face meeting with a new client or business prospect can often be the clincher to our future dealings with them. How did we come across to them? And how did we feel about their response to what we had to say?
I recently visited a lawyer in a large legal practice in the Melbourne CBD. I had come with a copyright-based enquiry, related to my ‘second life’ as a playwright. When he opened his office door to meet me, he clearly looked bored. We had hardly begun our meeting when his phone rang. He immediately took the call –another client – and kept me waiting for 15 minutes while he dispensed advice via his Blackberry. When the call ended, I outlined the reason for my visit. He never once looked at me but kept his eyes glued to his Blackberry, responding to emails while I talked.
I ended the meeting, angered by his arrogant assumption that this is how business is conducted in the 21st century and that I should just put up with it.
Ok – dismiss me as some old fuddy duddy with outdated ideas, but I still believe in the value of making a client feel special. I don’t view myself as a file or case number with an allocated number of dollars attached. I’m a person, with an individual request and if I seek professional advice, I want to feel I’m the most important person in the room for the duration of a consultation.
There’s no difference between a salesgirl busy gossiping with her colleagues while customers wait for service, or a lawyer with bigger clients on his mind: lack of client focus is a huge problem for organisations. Yet, putting the client at the centre of your commercial universe is one of the first precepts of marketing and the first step in doing this is the way you introduce yourself.
5 customer service tips for face-to-face meetings
1. When you first meet a client – smile: it may sound obvious, but a smile is a wonderful ice breaker. It shows you’re considerate and approachable. And when you smile, your client will smile back.
2. Shake the client’s hand firmly: A wishy-washy or half-hearted handshake is a real turn-off. A strong, firm handshake shows you are professional and ready to do business.
3. Look interested: again, a no brainer, but your clients will soon sense if you look as if you’d rather be somewhere else and are bored by what they have to say.
4. Taking calls and playing with your Blackberry? I don’t think so: of course it’s rude and nothing is more off-putting than a blatant disregard for the person in front of you.
5. At the end of the meeting, thank clients for their time: your clients have chosen YOU but they could have gone to thousands of other organisations, retail outlets or consulting firms, each one probably offering a similar range of merchandise, qualifications and experience. Your clients pay your salary, so treat them with respect. They deserve it.
Dina Ross is Public Relations Director at Evergreen Advertising & Marketing in Melbourne, Australia, specialists in communicating to the 50+ market. A PR and crisis communications expert, she has held senior editorial positions at BBC UK and The Age , headed her own award-winning PR consultancy and is the author of “Surviving the Media Jungle”, a guide to PR. Melbourne, Australia.
Featured image: thetaxhaven