Are face-to-face meetings worth the hassle?
I just got back from a visit to a client’s manufacturing facility in Mexico. This is the most recent in a series of trips in and outside the US during the last couple of months, including to Europe, South America, Mexico, and Canada.
On the flight back from Mexico, I was feeling quite tired from so much travel. I asked myself, “after Covid has made remote work so normal, is all of this travel worth it?” In today’s air travel environment, with long security lines, the fear of getting Covid, and just the hassle of packing, getting to a nearby airport, and dealing with the crowds, it would be easy to default to online-only communication. However, after reflecting on this last visit, and the ones prior to that one, it did not take me very long to realize that, yes, it is very much worth it.
At BBA, prior to deploying a new software solution at one of our clients’ sites, we insist on visiting the site in person at least twice. Once for a kickoff meeting, where we get to meet the plant team face to face, talk about their unique requirements, and make sure they feel seen and heard. Typically, during this visit, we also get to share one or two meals together, which allows us to get to know our counterparts in a social setting, as well.
The second in-person meeting occurs just prior to deployment, with the objective of demonstrating the software solution and training the users. This gives us an opportunity to explain new software features and more complex usage of the tool. It also allows us to deepen our business and interpersonal relationship with each person and develop trust – not only in the software but in each other.
Over time, we have realized that online communication, while convenient for extended support and day-to-day interaction, is no substitute for the face-to-face, in-person meetings I described above. During these meetings, we have found that people are not only more willing to express their hopes and fears for our software, but their attitude towards the solution becomes more open and trusting. Maybe the fact that we made the effort to come all the way to their “turf” makes them feel that we are serious about delivering on their requirements and providing a great solution for their needs.