The relationship still matters – Why you’re not going to be replaced by a robot

The professional service relationship, between the client and the practitioner, is a special one. Whether it’s a client’s financial freedom, their family’s livelihood, or their professional reputation, the stakes are high. The client needs to implicitly trust the professional service provider. This trust is built over time and can’t be easily replicated, and the human face-to-face interaction is not likely to be replaced any time soon.

Building a trusted relationship is still a crucial element in the selling and delivery of professional services. A critical element of trust is reliability. In Hinge Marketing’s e-book Inside the Buyer’s Brain:

“The number one reason buyers gave for continuing the relationship was that their professional services provider actually did what they said they would do. In short, they delivered on their promise.”

You may say reliability will be improved by automation, and I think that is true, but human delivery of the promised service will always be required. There may some aspects of a service that can be outsourced, numbers that can be crunched by a computer, or even decisions made with the help of artificial intelligence, but there is always going to be a need for face-to-face interaction to build the necessary trust in the relationship. Research conducted at the Beijing Normal University, and published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that “face-to-face communication, particularly dialog, has special neural features that other types of communication do not have” and that something called “neural synchronization” occurs between the people in the face-to-face conversation.

“The current study showed that, compared with other types of communication, face-to-face communication is characterized by a significant neural synchronization between partners based primarily on multimodal sensory information integration and turn-taking behaviour during dynamic communication. These findings suggest that face-to-face communication has important neural features that other types of communication lack, and also that people should take more time to communicate face-to-face.”

In her book Trusted: The Human Approach to Building Outstanding Client Relationships in a Digitised World, Lyn Bromley talks about the five building blocks to building trusted relationships.
These five areas are:

  1. Mindset: You can manage your mindset to be more confident, positive and set you up to be more successful.
  2. Communication: Active listening and knowing when to allow the other person to talk about their goals and objectives, issues and concerns, is one of the most valuable skills you can learn.
  3. Interaction: Dedication, energy, and thought are needed to create strong, lasting business relationships. Interactions with colleagues and partners are as important as those with clients and prospects.
  4. Behaviour: In professional services, behaviour is one of the most important differentiators of a business.
  5. Professional image: How we dress not only affects how others perceive us, but also how we perceive ourselves.

The RAIN Group, in their e-book Your Guide to Insight Selling Success, say that:

“Relationship building, the personal side, is still critical to earning trust and winning sales. What has changed is the way buyers form relationships with sellers.”

The RAIN Group have extensively researched the professional services selling-buying relationship. They have found that clients of professional services still need their professional service provider to build a genuine relationship based on trust. In the buying process, insight sellers establish themselves as trustworthy sources of value, so buyers open up to an exchange of information and ideas. If the buyer likes and trusts you, they’re more apt to take your advice and this continues throughout your business relationship. It increases your business value, along with the frequency and depth of your business interactions. According to the RAIN Group, the world has changed. The rhythm has changed. The order in which we do things has changed. But what hasn’t changed is the need to build strong personal connections with buyers (prospective clients) and clients.

This innate human need to build strong personal connections, particularly in a highly trust-based professional services relationship, is the reason why you won’t be replaced by a robot. Well, not until AI technology becomes so advanced that it can create ‘neural synchronization’ between a client and a robot. Some of the services you provide will be automated and performed by a computer, probably sooner than you think, but your abilities to build trust and a genuine human connection will not easily be replicated by a machine.

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