The current recession reaches into virtually every market sector, and it’s far from over. Economic experts predict the U.S. economy will continue to struggle, with weak consumer demand in nearly all industries. However, companies that respond by retrenching may be sacrificing valuable opportunities. A more proactive approach is to find innovative ways to minimize expenses while maintaining and even extending business relationships. Business travel is one of the dominant financial factors where costs can be saved. But how can this be achieved without weakening sales and direct customer relations?
A particularly effective way to achieve travel budget reductions is to employ web conferencing. Salespeople can make interactive presentations that showcase the product while allowing customers to see the presenter and ask questions.
Web conferencing cannot only be employed for sales presentations but also corporate trainings. Many training topics are candidates for virtual delivery, including supervisory and management subjects, product introductions, and especially software training. A trainer can give students hands-on experience while demonstrating features and commands from his own desktop. Travel budget reductions can be quite significant, since companies can train hundreds of employees without incurring any travel expenses.
With web conferencing, people in various locations can meet over the computer. While not every in-person meeting can be replaced with a virtual one, the number of ways companies can use web meetings is extensive enough to offer a quick and sizable ROI. An internal team can meet to edit a document, and each member can see everyone’s changes. Employees in remote locations can collaborate in real time much more effectively than by conference call. IT departments can even use web conferencing to provide a virtual help desk, remotely addressing computer problems at any company location.
For all its benefits, there remains some resistance to web conferencing. Some senior employees see business travel as a valuable benefit of their jobs. Some mid-level managers are eager to prove their dedication by undertaking extensive travel. Some executives feel strongly about the personal connection afforded by in-person contacts. Others are simply slow to adopt new technologies, or are intimidated by concerns about cost, licensing and choosing the right provider. While these may have been valid drawbacks in the past, today’s economic climate simply compels decision makers to seek cost savings, particularly when they come with the added benefits of increased productivity and effectiveness.
Leaders who want to change company practice with regard to travel can follow this five-step plan:
- Explain the economic imperative for reducing travel budgets. Address directly the issue of status symbols and the need to redefine them.
- Develop new rewards, based on achieving business objectives while containing travel costs.
- Develop a plan for introducing the new system, including unit-specific goals for reducing the travel budget.
- Stress the need to maintain good relationships with customers, suppliers, and partners.
- Smooth the introduction of web-conferencing by providing a pilot period with adequate training and support.
An advantage that may win over some skeptics is the environmental benefit of reduced travel. In addition to travel cost reduction, web conferencing results in greenhouse gas reduction, since both airline and automobile fuels are culprits. The research institute Gartner reports that business travel can account for as much as 50% of a company’s carbon footprint. For corporations that have adopted a “green” marketing strategy, web conferencing can be an important component.
There remains the challenge of identifying the best web conferencing solution for your specific situation. Cost-and-feature comparisons can be a particular obstacle for small and midsize enterprises without staff resources to devote to an extensive investigation. There are vendor-independent sites, like http://www.webconferencing-test.com, that help make the decision making process easy. Websites like this are an excellent information sources, providing access to well-researched, rated, compared and edited information, helping companies take those first steps with web meetings.
Today’s economy presents the most difficult business environment in decades. Fortunately, technology provides a cost-saving solution that can actually improved operational efficiencies while reducing travel costs. Web conferencing makes it possible to visually demonstrate products in a way conference calling cannot match. In web meetings, employees can actively collaborate, making teams more effective. Companies use web conferencing to take advantage of cutting edge marketing opportunities like social networking, and can allow employees to telecommute, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions and office overhead as well. The many advantages of web conferencing argue for a serious look, and economic conditions argue for doing it now.