Around 57 per cent of professionals polled in the UAE said that they have lost a client or a contract due to a lack of face-to-face meetings, according to a study by IHG Group’s Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts.
The report found that a lack of face-to-face meetings has resulted in a yearly revenue loss of 26 per cent for UAE businesses.More than two thirds of the respondents said that the number of virtual meetings they attended has increased in the past five to 10 years as they opted for cost and time saving technologies such as video conferencing.
Despite a decline in the number of face-to-face meetings, the majority of Emirati business people polled – around 79 per cent – agreed that direct meetings are better for building long-term trust and strong client relationships.“Face-to-face meetings afford participants opportunities to develop transparency and trust amongst each other, which would be limited through the use of other forms of communications,” said Dr. Michelle Hunter, consultant business psychologist and programme leader on the business psychology programme at Heriot-Watt University Dubai.
“A major reason for this is that contact is a basic human need – this allows members to engage in and observe verbal and non-verbal behavioural styles, which can be captured in real-time.”The study also revealed that the outcome of a meeting is dependent on the time of the day. The second day of the week was identified as the opportune time for a successful meeting in the UAE, the UK and the US while the first day of the week was found to be effective in India and China.
While face-to-face meetings have reduced year-on-year in the UAE, the country still scores high when compared to the global average.According to the survey, Emiratis prefer to conduct face-to-face meetings when starting a new business relationship, finalising a deal and during contract negotiations.
The majority of the Emiratis polled also said that connecting with business associates on social networks helped strengthen their relationship with the clients. Around 56 per cent opted for social networking site Facebook to connect with their business partners while 52 per cent said that they looked at an associate’s LinkedIn page.
“Although developments in technology allow business men and women to make achievements in meetings that would have been impossible a few years back, meeting face-to-face continues to bring significant benefits that are much harder to obtain through virtual channels,” said Hazel Carter-Showell, UK business psychologist and body language expert.“One of these benefits is building trust, which research has shown is behind many profitable companies. Trusted companies have higher morale, productivity, lower employee turnover and create deeper relationships with their customers.”