Step Away from the Screen: The Value of Meeting Customers in Person
June 9, 2016
Margot Da Cunha
One of the main things that drew me to Wistia was how every employee valued making online business more human. Video is a valuable tool if you’re trying to humanize your business, but taking things a step further with in-person meetings can turn happy customers into brand ambassadors.
A human touch
Six groggy hours after I departed downtown Boston and landed on the opposite coast in the San Francisco Airport, I found myself rushing to the ladies room to wash my face and head to the quaint cafe where I had organized my first in-person customer meeting.
Our hour-long lunch meetup went way over an hour, which no one seemed to notice. Aside from discussing these customers’ product feedback and pain points, I learned all about how this married couple built a business 30 plus years ago that still holds strong today.
It was fascinating to hear about their hardships, celebrations, and plans for the future. We also found out that we shared some commonalities, as the couple happened to have some family in the Boston area (where I currently reside and grew up). As we exchanged handshakes and well-wishes, it was clear that the bond I formed by meeting these customers in person was far stronger then any client relationship I’ve had in my career thus far.
“It was clear that the bond I formed by meeting these customers in person was far stronger then any client relationship I’ve had in my career thus far.”
With communication tools like Skype, Slack, Google Hangouts, social networks, and email, it’s easy to get caught up in the efficiency of communicating through the internet, but if we look back a couple decades, we’d see that “customer service” is not at all what it once was.
I’d be the first to admit that in some ways, it’s much better. Work is much more efficient now than it was in the pre-internet era, but it seems many have forgotten the power of making in-person connections with customers.
Making a memorable and sharable experience
During the same trip, I visited a customer’s office in Silicon Valley whose relationship with Wistia is longer than my own. As I learned all about her experience creating, tracking, and tweaking her company’s video strategy, I was also able to give her some helpful tips on how to take things to the next level with some hidden tricks and useful betas.
When I hopped on the freeway to San Jose, I saw that she had tweeted about Wistia and our conversation to her several thousand Twitter followers.
It didn’t take long for favorites and retweets to come rolling in, which further proves that these intimate interactions are well worth the effort. Meaningful conversations can lead to customers becoming advocates of your brand, and sharing their experiences with their communities.
“Meaningful conversations can lead to customers becoming advocates of your brand.”
Beyond these anecdotes, there’s lots of evidence supporting this argument. Psychologist and professor at the National University of Singapore, Dr. Richard D. Arvey, found that "77% of people believe face-to-face meetings are a necessity not a luxury; 85% believe face-to-face meetings are more likely to result in breakthrough thinking; and 82% believe that meetings bring out the best in people."
Building trust with high-value customers
In my 5–month stint at Wistia, I’ve visited 5 customers in person. While these meetings have been coordinated around trips planned for conferences and events, they’ve all resulted in customers feeling truly appreciated by Wistia.
A few weeks ago in downtown San Francisco, my colleague and I were talking shop with a small customer that was in the process of becoming a high-value customer — transitioning over 12,000 videos onto our platform. For privacy reasons, I’ll call this customer Bob. Bob had been burned pretty bad in the past through a hosting service that over-promised and under-delivered.
Bob knew it was time to find a better solution, but with a sour taste in his mouth, it wasn’t easy to trust a new provider. Luckily, we were able to address a lot of Bob’s hesitations in the most human way possible — in person.
“Luckily, we were able to address a lot of Bob’s hesitations in the most human way possible.”
As our meeting wrapped up and our stomachs began to growl, before my colleague and I sprinted to the closest restaurant, Bob looked us in the eyes and said, “I can’t thank you guys enough for carving out time to visit us. It shows that Wistia truly cares about their customers.”
The very next day Bob emailed me to discuss pricing.
Showing your customers you have their best interest at heart, and that you care enough about them to coordinate a face-to-face meeting is 100X more valuable than clicking into a GoToMeeting without even moving out of your desk chair.
As Joe Mullich from the Wall Street Journal says, “In-person business meetings let attendees develop transparency and trust in ways that are not possible with other forms of communication.”
Creating brand ambassadors
Think about that individual who changes jobs and brings your software to each and every company she works for. Or the fellow who is so delighted by your line of kitchen appliances that every gift he gives is from that product line. This can lead to a lifetime of word-of-mouth marketing, and a superfan club of customers who will stay loyal with you until the end of time.
Dramatic? Maybe. But consider reaching out to a few high-value customers and saying hi face-to-face. These personalized interactions go a long way.