Dear Growth Molecules: We have a company culture of having cameras enabled on conference calls. How do I get my clients to follow suit for our calls together?

By: Sabina M. Pons

When video conferencing began emerging in workplaces in the early 2000s, it was typically one camera aimed at a conference table with people gathered around. The video stream was transmitted to another location of people gathered in the same fashion. The audio and video frequently lapsed and/or was out of sync, and the technology was generally unreliable. Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and use of video conferencing via applications like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams grew exponentially – seeing a 30% increase from December of 2019 to March of 2020 alone. The speed and quality of new technologies enabled global teams to stay connected while we were quarantining “separate together.” During this time, companies crafted employee policies for when cameras should be on. For many businesses, the “Zoom Culture” is here to stay – at least for teams managing customer relationships.

A study by Oxford Economics found that in-person meetings resulted in an increase in revenue and profitability. Specifically, this study found that every dollar invested in business travel resulted in $12.50 in added revenues and $3.80 in new profits. This data is now 13 years old, but it begs the question: Do cameras on for virtual meetings yield the same business growth impacts? The answer is yes. Research shows face-to-face requests are 34 times more effective than those sent by email. Gong reported that deals are closed 41% more often when web cameras are used, and according to Forbes, 62% of executives agree that video conferencing improves communication relative to audio conferencing, and 50% of those surveyed shared the sentiment that mutual understanding improved when cameras are on. Therefore, if you’re responsible for Sales, Customer Success, Account Management, or other client-facing duties, and are working in a virtual capacity, cameras should be on to maximize your relationships and therefore business outcomes. 

So back to the original question – How does one get the customer to have their camera on too? Encouraging customers to turn on their cameras during video conferences can be a delicate issue, as it may depend on a variety of factors, including the type of business, the nature of the relationship between you and your customers, and the cultural norms of the countries/regions in which they operate. Here are five tips that may help:

1.) Explain The Benefits: One of the most effective ways to encourage customers to turn on their cameras is to explain the benefits of video conferencing. In addition to the aforementioned reasons, this can include increased engagement, better communication, and the ability to build stronger relationships. Video conferencing can result in increased trust and therefore faster decision-making. With positive eye contact and other non-verbal queues activated, partnerships are nurtured.

2.) Set Expectations: Be clear about your expectations and let your customers know in advance that you would like them to turn on their cameras during the call. You can also explain the reasons why you believe it would be beneficial for them to do so. An example narrative to try: “For our next meeting, I would love to meet you face to face to continue to build upon our relationship.” When they do get on screen, comment on how wonderful it is to see them and further help them to be comfortable by being human-first. 

3.) Lead By Example: If you want your customers to turn on their cameras, it’s important that you do the same. Be sure to have your camera on during the call and be fully engaged. In our Growth Molecules Academy, we teach an entire class on this topic: “Leading Effective Business Meetings” and tips include having cameras on, notifications off, sitting in a well-lit atmosphere, where one’s head and shoulders are aptly centered in the camera’s frame. As a team, we practice the same protocols in our customer-facing calls as well. 

4.) Be Respectful: It’s important to respect your customers’ privacy and comfort levels. If they are not comfortable turning on their cameras, it’s important to accept their decision and not pressure them. You may leave your camera on, or kindly ask if it is okay for you to turn yours off as well. 

5.) Provide Technical Support: Some customers may be hesitant to turn on their cameras because they are not familiar with the technology. Providing technical support and guidance can help alleviate these concerns.

Overall, encouraging customers to turn on their cameras during video conferences requires a thoughtful and respectful approach that takes into account their needs and preferences. When done considerately, and then used consistently, customer bonds will be nurtured, often leading to lasting relationships which in turn, typically result in brand loyalty.