UK Businesses Have Lost the Personal Touch

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A new study by TalkTalk Business has revealed the changing face of business communications in the UK

The research shows that SME employees spend over a day a week composing and sending emails and employee time spent emailing costs a large SME over £1.2 million in labour costs a year.

A worrying 64 per cent of SMEs across the UK have lost the personal touch when it comes to business, due to a reliance on communicating to customers and stakeholders via email, instant messenger, twitter and other less personal modes of digital communication.

The research released today by telecom provider, TalkTalk Business, reveals that the art of conversation in business is dying as SMEs snub face-to-face meetings and personal communications tools such as the telephone or video conferencing. The study was conducted to explore how the changing face of business communications could be impacting on SME performance and productivity.

Paul Lawton, managing director of TalkTalk Business, said: “Although more impersonal modes of communication such as email, direct mail and instant messenger still have an important role within business, it’s vital that SMEs maintain a balanced approach and explore the wide range of communication channels available to them.”

When approaching a new business prospect, the majority (41 per cent) of SMEs rely on using email to develop leads, despite almost a third of key business decision makers admitting to responding to less than 10 emails per day.

Staff productivity has also suffered due to the over reliance on email correspondence with the majority of SME employees spending over eight hours a week simply composing emails to send to customers, suppliers and stakeholders.

Employee time spent emailing costs a large SMEs (250 employees) around £1,250,000 in labour costs a year. Paul Lawton, comments: “The time employees spend emailing over the course of a year is costing SMEs big, money that could arguably be put to much better use, particularly in the current economic climate.”

The human, personal touch is also missing within internal communications across SMEs, as less than a fifth of SME business owners are in regular face-to-face contact with their employees. A worrying 67 per cent are also dependent on email and less personal modes of communication when addressing staff, whilst only six per cent pick up the phone to speak to a colleague.

Angela Holland, an Occupational Psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “Maintaining high levels of human interaction within business correspondence is critical. Whether it’s an SME or major blue chip organisation, the power of personality in any business is priceless – not only to maintain positive relationships but helping generate successful new business leads.

“It’s worrying that the research carried out by TalkTalk Business has revealed that SMEs have become over-dependent on what is seen to be impersonal communication tools such as email and are snubbing the traditional art of conversation. The psychological and business benefits of engaging one-to-one, either face-to-face or over the phone, cannot be underestimated.”

Paul Lawton, added: “Technology in the digital age doesn’t need to strip SMEs of that personal touch that is so critical to business success. From Skype and video conferencing to the good old fashioned telephone, a raft of technologies exist which maintain that human interaction which is pivotal to building strong business relationships with customers and key stakeholders.”