Can a virtual meeting ever replace the relationship-building power of a real-life handshake?

Duncan Finlay, Head of Voice and UC Product Management

When was the last time you shook someone’s hand?

Not a fist bump or tap of the elbow (here’s hoping that little innovation dies out with the virus), but a proper, good-old-fashioned handshake. 

It feels like a gesture from times gone by. 

Yet some of the best relationships and the biggest deals in business were built on something as simple as a handshake. The right body language. A feeling you get in the meeting room. Things we can only do in person. 

For businesses built on relationships, then – the insurers, consultancies and other professional services of the world – we’re entering strange new times indeed. 

Even as restrictions continue to ease, it doesn’t seem like face-to-face business will ever go back to pre-pandemic levels. 

60% of enterprises will have migrated their contact centres to the cloud by 2024, according to predictions by Gartner, with a 60% jump in remote working full-time.

If you’re one of those business that relies so heavily on relationships, how can you adapt and thrive in the wake of all this change? 

Many professional services firms are still playing catch-up

Professional services firms have arguably suffered more than most in the office-working world when it came to the sudden and very unexpected impact of Covid-19. 

Because so much of what they do happens face-to-face, many simply weren’t set up for sudden large-scale remote working. They never thought they’d need to be. 

Even now, 72% of firms struggle with limited organisation support for effective resource management, according to a recent study by Mavenlink, with a lack of integrated technology being cited as the biggest hurdle. 

50% still use spreadsheets as their primary tool for resource management, according to the same study.

And in another study by Salesforce, 60% of professional services people said they spend too much time logging activities such as emails and phone calls, while 58% said the same thing about logging sales data and client notes.

Clearly there’s an opportunity to improve things through digital technology. But knowing that is not enough. Aside from the obvious financial cost and potential disruption to your day-to-day business, many firms are struggling with legacy infrastructure that can’t always support new digital tools. 

Get it wrong and you could be faced with dozens of apps that don’t talk to each other or perform as well as they should, which could leave you with frustrated employees and a poor customer experience.

Being open to new ways of working has real business benefits

Despite the above challenges, there is so much value in professional services firms moving to a more digital, cloud-based approach. 

While things may never go back to the way they were before the pandemic, that could prove to be a good thing for firms that are willing to innovate and invest in digital change.

And many firms are already turning to the cloud to find the answers. 

The average IT Vendor now sources 95% of its IT infrastructure from a public cloud. This attributes to an average 50% reduction in costs compared to traditional on premise datacentres, according to Unit4. As a result, more than 50% of professional services plan to source most of their IT infrastructure from the cloud over the next few years.

And the benefits of doing so are clear. 

In our recent report, How digital change is leading Britain’s professional services firms out of the Covid crisis, Richard King, Chief Operating Officer of legal and professional services firm Knights, said:

“In the traditional legal world, to get a document printed you take notes, give it to a secretary to type up, then read and edit it before you arrive at a final copy. 

“We made the conscious decision to not employ secretaries, but rather to empower our lawyers to do this themselves through the use of our technology systems.”

The result?

“The industry average number of fee earners per support staff is 1.7:1 and currently we’re operating at 4.2:1,” said King. 

Even better: the firm’s Net Promoter (NPS) Score has risen to over 60 – a number that’s up there with the likes of Apple and Amazon, and way ahead of the average professional services brand. 

The above would not have been possible without a cloud-based approach that allowed Knights to keep its people, technology and customers connected and collaborating seamlessly wherever they happened to be – all without losing sleep over sensitive data.

Which leads me to my next point…

Integration can make or break your progress

Adapting to new ways of working and doing business has required organisations to adapt a whole world off different tools. 

But this in itself creates another problem: a complicated ecosystem of different technologies that don’t always talk to each other or work well with your existing infrastructure. 

Bringing them all together in a way that works for your people and your customers is no easy feat. The key is to look for a platform that lets you combine various different communication tools in one place – the new ones you’ve adopted in the wake of the pandemic but also the ones your employees were already using. 

For your people, collaboration should feel seamless. And that should be the case whether they’re all in the office or working in multiple different places at once. 

Sounds like an impossible dream. But the answer is really quite simple. 

All you need to do is choose the right platform.

Need help finding the right cloud communication platform for your professional services firm?

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