Several months ago, I introduced my 10, 8 and 6 year old boys to some of the most irresponsible comedy ever made: The Three Stooges. And they loved it. They immediately began mastering the eye poke (along with the required block) and head smacking. They fought over who’s Moe, who’s Larry and, most importantly, who’s Curly, laughing hysterically the whole time.
Since then, I’ve introduced them to the smart-alecky Brooklyn accent of Bugs Bunny (who sounds an awful lot like their grandfather), the marvels of mask removal in Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, the antics of a bumbling Fred and Barney in The Flintstones, the fortifying properties of spinach for Popeye and what the future holds in The Jetsons. And each time, I receive their gratitude in the form of excited laughter, shouts of “yabba dabba doo” and even a “thanks so much for showing this to me”.
And each time, I marvel and say the same thing my parents, and their parents and their parents, etc. said: “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore”.
That statement begs the question: “Why don’t they make ‘em like that anymore”? But it also makes me think in larger terms about how we live our lives today. What’s changed – for the better or for the worse? Are we using technology responsibly? Or are we sacrificing personal connection for convenience?
Building Personal Connections
At 4THBIN, we’ve always had a culture that values relationships. With every decision we make, we try to focus on building personal connections, both among our team members and with our clients. The truth is, it’s these relationships that matter most.
In many ways, that’s where business today has lost its way. With so much emphasis on technology and how it’s changing the way we communicate, we lose sight of the fact that there’s no substitute for body language or a change in voice inflection during conversation. It’s called “body language” for a reason – there’s no emoji as descriptive as these cues. These signals have been critical to society for millennia. Even Fred knew when Wilma had enough of his hijinks – they were a modern Stone Age family, of course.
In some ways, it feels like technology is hurting our ability to form and maintain relationships. In their article “Is Technology Hurting Your Business?”, Blake and Mike DuBose discuss the dangers of opting for automated client-facing efforts: “Computers often misunderstand voices, present callers with the wrong options, or force clients to answer many questions (only to have customer service representatives repeat those queries—if they can ever be reached)!” While it may be tempting to choose the most cost- and time-effective methods, we certainly do not want to risk alienating those we set out to support.
The Importance of Real Interpersonal Contact (and Pastries)
I learned a very interesting lesson in business relationships at the ripe, old age of 24. I worked for an organization where I was responsible for redesigning and deploying their entire computer infrastructure. We had a relationship with an IT sales/service company whose salesperson practically lived in our office. He visited once every week or two whether we had any new business for him or not. And he brought pastries. I know what you’re thinking: “Meh…the oldest trick in the book.” And rightfully so. But he serviced the hell out of our account. His communication was spot-on – he answered every phone call (this was before email was the prevalent form of daily communication). He solved every problem – big or small. He made big problems seem small. And, he was there every few weeks with pastries. The relationship I formed with him has lasted over two decades and has spanned many organizations. This person became a mentor of mine who offered some very valuable business lessons when needed most in my career.
When was the last time you chatted with an account rep over a cup of coffee instead of an email or text message? When was the last time your account rep just showed up out of the blue just to check in and keep up the relationship regardless of whether you have immediate business to give? I fear these are lost arts in the business world that are being replaced by the flood of mundane emails.
It’s time for us to remember that humans are social beings who rely heavily on real interpersonal contact. From the Three Stooges to The Flintstones, time has shown that the dynamics of personal relationships affect the outcome of every endeavor.
As a company that is rooted in technology, 4THBIN is clearly concerned with the latest innovations in hardware and software. Our mission is first and foremost to help businesses though responsible e-cycling, secure data destruction and developing e-management strategies. However, we realize that in order for us to best help our clients we have to make meaningful connections that help us to understand their needs. So while we recognize that we might not be able to stay in touch with every client or enjoy viewings of nostalgic TV classics without technology – streaming services, YouTube, etc. – we know that it is important to use these modern marvels to help build relationships while still having meaningful human-to-human interactions.
To make sure you are prioritizing the things that matter most, ask yourself:
- Why do I rely so heavily on digital communication instead of real-life communication?
- Am I sacrificing connection for convenience?
- As a customer, what’s truly important in a vendor relationship? Is it only the product or service they provide? Does trust and comfort play a role?
- What can I do to build the strongest relationship, and the most loyalty, with my customers?
Three simple tips to energize business relationships:
- Identify your two most valuable relationships from within your company and go out for a midday cup of coffee. No agenda needed. Just 15 minutes of two people chatting about their day or upcoming weekend plans.
- If you’re in sales or account management or have external relationships with partners, vendors, or clients, go visit them and bring coffee and pastries. It’s an opportunity to chat, ask questions and discover what their ongoing challenges might be. You may even make an immediate deal out of it.
- Simply call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while just to say “I was thinking about you and wanted to call and see how you’re doing”. You’ll be surprised what kind of impact this can have on others – and yourself.