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In the shift to digital, have businesses become faceless?

By Soffos Team
September 20, 2021

In today’s digital world, the rules of customer and employee engagement are changing.

While the rapid adoption of technology, especially over the last 18 months, has brought many benefits, it also carries associated challenges; not least the absence of human office- based interactions

At Soffos, we are keen to uncover the extent to which the potentially ineffective use of tech and sometimes inadequate solutions have contributed to the fraying of those critical workplace connections. So, we polled over 650 UK business leaders to find out what’s really going on in offices across Great Britain. Here’s a preview of what we discovered…

Digital is the new normal

Of all the decision-makers polled, 43% believe that Covid-19 has permanently replaced traditional communication like interpersonal meetings and water-cooler conversations, with digital-first interactions now the default. While transport data suggests that commuting is returning to pre-pandemic levels in some cities, the general consensus is that online collaboration will continue to play a critical role in the new hybrid workplace.

But not everyone is happy about this new workplace landscape. Indeed, just shy of half (48%) of the respondents in our sample said that employees in their organization have expressed a desire to return to in-person meetings or days in the office.

While motivations may vary, the underlying message revealed by our survey is that technology has served to make collaboration more difficult, rather than easier. For instance, over a third (38%) of business leaders indicated that their organization now relies on too many different channels for internal communications, leading to interruptions in productivity.

Problematic issues with customer-facing operations have also cropped up as a result of all these changes. Our survey found that 36% of businesses enlisted the support of ChatBots during the pandemic, in the hope of improving customer enquiry outcomes. But the results were far from ideal – nearly two in five (39%) businesses admitted that the quality of their customer service has declined over the past 18 months.  

Our findings concur with some recent research from Which?. Its latest survey reveals that fewer than half (45%) of people who experienced an issue with a retailer rate social media, online ChatBots or text as efficient communication methods.

Clearly, recent digital trends have created major implications for both customer service and employee relations, with technology failing to supplant communication methods which allow for direct and person-to-person interactions.

Employee development takes a toll

As businesses prepare for the future of work, they must also develop fresh digital engagement strategies that will build and maintain strong relationships within their workforce.

Indeed, Soffos’ research highlighted that employees’ personal and professional needs have suffered at the hands of poor tech – over a third (38%) of business leaders said that a reliance on inadequate digital tools has hampered their ability to deliver effective training during the pandemic. Likewise, similar numbers (36%) said that employees in their organization have requested more collaborative learning and development opportunities, such as in-person workshops and training sessions.

Evidently, employees and customers alike are missing critical connections that have been overlooked in the shift to digital. So how can businesses ensure they can restore strong relationships and avoid becoming ‘faceless’?

The issue is not so much the nature of technology itself, but rather the dubious quality of solutions that businesses have relied upon for a ‘quick fix’ in the face of this Work From Home revolution. As the future becomes more certain, next-generation technologies are entering the arena to deliver more natural and differentiated interactions to those missing that personal touch.

Watch out for the big reveal of our upcoming research, where we’ll share some more standout findings from our latest survey – including the technologies that companies are looking towards to help inject some personalization into their businesses. (Hint: many are desperate for solutions like Soffos!).

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