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Tech revolution spells huge opportunity for professional services

Article date: Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:27 GMT

Roundtable at UKFast

The impact of technology on business is placing new demands on professional services and creating a 'wealth of opportunity' for digitally-savvy advisors, according to industry experts.

Corporates are looking for advice on operating safely in a changing, digitally-led landscape and it is legal and financial advisors who are clued up on tech that are securing the future of professional services.

Experts at a round table debate in Manchester issued advice on how to embrace new technologies to keep up with the changing demands of the corporate world and maximise the opportunity presented by the digital revolution.

The use of social media, mobile apps, big data and search engine optimisation as communication, marketing and lead generation aids are some of the key areas of opportunity identified for the sector by the panel of experts. These are methods which the most digitally enabled professional services firms are already taking advantage of, using the traditional referral and recommendation model but employing social media and search engines to gain visibility online.

According to Google, two million searches are made daily for legal terms in the UK alone. Without a visible presence, firms are in danger of missing out on this volume of interest.

The group of experts, assembled to address tech issues in professional services, included Jennifer Smith, associate at JMW Solicitors, who warns that customer behaviour is evolving faster than some firms are currently keeping pace with.

She said: "You have to revisit your social media profiles constantly. Customers expect everything on your social media to be up-to-date and you must meet their expectations. We are now in an industry that is very consumer-driven and it's all about customer service. It's all about making that customer journey as painless as possible and especially in areas that we are able to commoditise, such as social media or apps."

Sian English, marketing manager at digital marketing agency The eWord, agrees, warning that social networks and widely available content play an essential role in the modern consumer journey.

She explained: "If you're not on top of your social media, you're opening yourself up to a storm of problems. It is essential for all industries to recognise how you should be using content as part of the buyer journey.

"Consumers view more than eleven pieces of content before they action a decision so all businesses need to use the right content at the right time to positively influence the behaviour of prospective clients."

Nicola Frost, who moved from private practice to become in-house Head of Legal for cloud firm UKFast earlier this year, described how technology is 'upskilling' newcomers to professional services and freeing up time for them to concentrate on delivering a quality service.

Frost says: "Technology has affected how professionals communicate with clients. People are now looking for service delivery using apps and online data rooms. Those firms that are able to invest in technology or have already invested are the ones that will be able to gain market share.Technology can also help them identify where they are leaking margin and how best to maximise profitability and this will influence how professional firms are shaped in the future. "

Jodi Birkett, partner at Deloitte, is encouraging businesses within the professional service industry to prepare for the future of technology - harnessing data being a prime example.

She said: "From a tech perspective there will be a great demand for our services in understanding and making use of data. The Internet of Things for example, will become significantly more appropriate for corporate firms. It's going to drive a lot of data and those corporates are going to need to understand what to do with it."

Lawrence Jones MBE, CEO of hosting and colocation firm UKFast, who hosted the debate, believes that in the era of 'social business', companies who are not embracing social channels are missing out on an incredible opportunity.

He said: "When used in the right way, social media is a fantastic way to create value for your business. The significance of social media in business is huge, it's a game changer and all businesses, big or small, should have a social media presence if their business campaign is to succeed.

"Not only is it a key part of the sales process, it is an essential part of customer service - how can you respond to a customers' calls for help about your business if you are not actively engaging with the platforms that they are?"

The experts gathered at the round table debate at UKFast Campus in Manchester, to discuss the latest technology trends and challenges facing professional services businesses in the UK.


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