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Al’s column: There’s no substitute for face to face

July 9/16, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 2

By Scott Perron

 

As I thought about the content of this article, a vivid memory from 1989 flashed into my brain. I was 24 years old and our family had just opened a new store in Connecticut. I was determined to talk my father into purchasing a thermal fax machine for use in our business so we could stay on the “cutting edge.” My dad was a couple of years older than I am now, and he could not wrap his brain around the need for sending electronic documents through this silly, $789 contraption. Nonetheless, he caved and we purchased the fax machine.

Fast forward almost 30 years and look at how we operate today. Can anyone imagine a day where you do not deal with dozens or even hundreds of emails, texts, Google searches, Facebook or other social media platforms? All this while continuing to use the scarce, antiquated art of live telephone or face-to-face conversations. We now have mobile devices for estimating and invoicing jobs on site with electronic signatures, credit card swipers utilizing e-documents that allow us to be more efficient, more organized and, with any luck, more profitable.

While all of these new tools and methods of doing business have become essential in our everyday lives, I am concerned about the lack of personal interaction, not just in business but also as a society. This movement toward impersonality favors automation and reduces the need for human contact. It’s so easy to hide behind text, email and social conversation when discussing business and human interaction. Think about it: We find (and break up with) our mates, friends and even business associates via text, IM and email rather than in person.

When training our people, however, we still insist on telephone as well as electronic follow up on all quotations, sales, etc. It has become increasingly evident, however, that the new consumers—especially those of a younger age—lack the desire to be “live” in their communications. I often observe my own teenage children texting in a room full of kids, stopping only to snicker, share a video or make a quick comment and then it’s right back to the tech-talk.

I have long believed that if everyone is running in one direction, an opportunity often lies in going the opposite way. This got me to thinking about how valuable the art of cold calling, belly-to-belly interaction and in-person solicitation will become for those who can master it as we sink deeper into a device-driven world. Over the past few weeks, my team has been calling, visiting and playfully challenging prospects and customers to speak with us live and in person. It’s still early, but I’m finding that people are refreshed and encouraged to speak rather than tap their thumbs—provided, of course, there is a benefit for them to do so.

In our interactions with customers, we routinely explain how personal the purchase of new flooring really is to their home. It’s about functionality, aesthetics and it’s also an expression of their personality. We have posted a series of videos on our products and services designed to educate and inform clients. In the near future, we plan to create new videos that encourage consumers, especially millennials, to take a calculated look and personal stake in the purchase of flooring while highlighting the added value they will experience.

I am convinced we will someday return to personal interaction with each other. What I am not sure of is how, when and what the result will be.

Only time will tell.

 

Scott Perron is the president of 24-7 Floors and Floor4Pros based in Sarasota, Fla. He is also an industry trainer and motivational speaker. He can be reached at scott@24-7floors.com or 860.250.1733.