Why the personal touch is now more crucial than ever

Against the backdrop of social distancing, adding a personal touch to business proceedings is no simple task

This is something that many businesses have had to contend with over the past 18 months, as the world of work changed throughout the pandemic. Indeed, keeping colleagues and customers close at a time when the world was forced to stay apart was a priority during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis. This continues to be the case as organizations now transition towards hybrid working models.

In practice, this has resulted in various teething problems for firms; chiefly, communication breakdowns and the disintegration of crucial workplace connections. As organizations have trialled new technologies and solutions throughout the pandemic to attempt improvements, many have found that these products and processes have only hindered their efforts.

According to recent research from Soffos.ai, even with new tools in place, almost two in five (39%) of UK business leaders say that the quality of their customer service declined throughout the pandemic. Equally, employee relations have also suffered, with a further 38% of those surveyed stating that their organization has taken on too many communication channels for internal conversations, resulting in interruptions, confusion and reduced productivity.

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, when workers could rely on in-person meetings and impromptu walk-ins from their clients and prospective customers, organizations didn’t have to think too hard about cultivating these relationships remotely. But given that hybrid working practices will almost certainly outlast the pandemic, organizations must seek out new and innovative ways to deliver a personal touch.

Reconsidering pandemic technology

The start of the pandemic coincided with the first phase of the remote and flexible working revolution. Now, businesses must consider the lessons learned, and assess how the technologies and practices relied upon over the past 18 months can be improved for the future.

According to that same Soffos survey, the uptake of new digital tools has also had a negative impact on the successful delivery of workplace learning and development (L&D) initiatives – according to 38% of the business leaders surveyed. As a result, similar numbers (36%) said their employees have expressed a desire to engage in more collaborative L&D opportunities, such as in-person workshops and training sessions.

It goes without saying that organizations have some rethinking to do, in order to bolster their communication and employee development strategies in these new remote and hybrid settings. For many, it would be advisable to do this on a team-by-team basis, as needs will inevitably vary between departments and individuals.

Moving away from internal matters, firms would also benefit from reconsidering their customer service initiatives, given that more than a third (36%) of those surveyed said that their business has taken on ChatBots to help field customer queries throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, these technologies often only served to cause further customer dissatisfaction.

Boosting colleague and client relations

Rather than relying on an excess of communication platforms and productivity tools, businesses should cut out unnecessary solutions which complicate important conversations, leading to frustration and crossed wires. For those companies using a whole host of different mediums – such as Slack, Zoom and Teams, to name but a few – taking on the mantra ‘less is more’ would be sound advice. Right now, many solutions have multiple functionalities, allowing users to manage their diaries, converse via videoconferencing, and assess their productivity from one platform. Simplicity is key; sometimes just one tool will suffice.

Turning our attention to L&D, businesses should look to co-opt genuinely useful online platforms, which can personalize their content to individual employees, alongside targeted in-person methods. For example, training platforms that put artificial intelligence (AI) to good use have the capacity to learn about each individual employee. The unique data analytics obtained can provide real value and insight to businesses, allowing training leaders to identify areas of strength and weakness, as well considering when and how individuals learn best. Organizations can therefore curate a truly bespoke approach to staff development.

Rebuilding customer relationships

While technology has, of course, allowed businesses to cope with the pandemic in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, issues have arisen due to this abrupt shift to a more digital economy. As such, organizations must now iron out any problems, and get to grips with more innovative solutions.

Firstly, business leaders should reconsider whether the technologies and platforms adopted initially are still fulfilling business requirements. If these solutions are causing employees more trouble than they are worth, then organizations should look to new platforms and streamline their digital channels where necessary. According to Soffos, 43% of business leaders believe that COVID-19 has permanently killed-off traditional communication like face-to-face meetings and water-cooler conversations, so looking towards newer and more agile solutions is essential.

Where customer relations are concerned, investing in Conversational AI technologies rather than simple ChatBots will be a better route to solving common customer issues.

There have been huge leaps and bounds made within CAI in recent years, allowing these technologies to fill in the gaps where traditional ChatBots fail. Where older technologies work within a set of limited binary ‘decision tree’ parameters and require a high degree of manual human input to function, CAI solutions have an actual grasp of language and semantics. Given that CAI can learn autonomously from previous interactions, this should improve customer satisfaction levels dramatically.

While businesses have come a very long way throughout the course of the COVID-19 crisis, now is the time to double-down on the adoption of truly innovative technologies that should make remote working easier, rather than creating fresh problems for workers and customers alike.

Given the many successes of the past year and a half, I have every confidence that organizations can make this a reality.

About the Author

Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot. The platform streamlines corporate learning and development (L&D) to deliver seamless professional training for employees.


Featured image: ©Jacob Ammentorp