Face-to-Face Look And Listen Critical To Business Communications

According to findings from an Economist Intelligence Unit survey, sponsored by Cisco, Business leaders' views on interaction, business leaders say they want more collaboration in person when it comes to activities such as brainstorming for new ideas, managing a specific crisis or making presentations.

Executives cited several specific activities as key to successful communications. According to the report, four out of these six cannot be achieved without face-to-face interaction:

  • Engagement and focus on shared content (92%)
  • Tone of voice (81%)
  • Facial expressions (81%)
  • Words someone is using (72%)
  • Subconscious body language (72%)
  • Conscious movements or gestures (67%)

While the primary function of meetings is to build relationships with customers, says the report, 89% of respondents say communications where the parties can see and respond to each other benefit internal business functions such as employee coaching and training as well as communications with partners and customers.

An additional 43% of respondents use meetings to discuss and resolve major issues with customers such as a service or product failure or dissatisfaction with the partnership. Motivations for expanding these meetings also include contract renewals, brainstorming sessions and being introduced to other clients or customers within the organization.

The survey explores the challenges of global enterprise collaboration and the perceived value of different types of business communications, including telephone, instant messaging, email and conferencing. The 862 global senior executives surveyed identified a number of key trends in business communications. These include:

Business leaders attach greater importance to in-person meetings with customers than with colleagues (72%), or partners and suppliers (66%). 54% of respondents to the survey said they see meetings with customers as having the greatest impact on their business. This need for face time relates to how 56% of respondents ranked the most important aspect of business collaboration: determining audience engagement and focus.

Business leaders in all categories cite email as the primary tool used in collaborating with colleagues, partners and customers (as much as 66% for senior managers), with the telephone identified as the second most-used business communication tool (25%). However, neither text nor voice alone was cited as the best option in communicating critical information in a global business.

Asked to pick their strongest motivation for meetings with colleagues outside of their own office, respondents from Asia-Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) are most interested in resolving a problem quickly. However, US business leaders are motivated more by cost reductions in meetings with colleagues. Non-US respondents are also more interested in generating better long-term relationships during their meetings with partners and customers.

In meeting with business partners or suppliers, respondents in the consumer goods industry are most likely to meet face to face to give or receive direction, while business leaders in energy/transportation, technology and services are most likely to meet to generate better long-term relationships. Respondents in other industries are most likely to meet with partners to be motivated or inspired.

More than one-half of respondents represent companies with annual revenues in excess of US$500m, and 34% were C-level or board-level executives. All respondents had positions of responsibility for, or influence over, strategic decisions on business communications.

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