Our team has once again partnered with Future Workplace, an advisory and membership organization that prepares HR leaders for the future of work, for our latest partner study: “The Human Edge in an AI World” (click to download). This sales and customer service-focused trend watch surveyed more than 600 respondents to analyze the state of these crucial roles as professionals navigate challenging client relationships while facing a global pandemic.

High Touch in a High Tech World

Our report’s respondents, who include sales and service workers and learning leaders across a wide range of industries, including retail, healthcare, financial services, technology, and manufacturing, revealed that soft skills such as emotional intelligence and resilience were the most critical traits for building successful client relationships in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace. Two-thirds of survey participants indicated that building trust with customers will be one of the most crucial customer service skills over the next two years.

“Customer service and sales roles have changed dramatically in the past year,” commented Jeanne Meister, Managing Partner, Future Workplace. “These professionals now must have a mix of digital and relationship-building skills to meet the new challenges of the hybrid workplace and achieve goals for growth.”

The developing dominance of essential human skills comes at a time of heightened stress for sales and service professionals due to the effects of the global pandemic, as well as the rise of increasingly automated customer interactions. Sales and service associates are being tasked with handling more difficult customer conversations alongside internal pressure to meet quotas and hasten speed to resolution or close. These transformations in the workplace have put an elevated emphasis on the mastery of such social instincts as active listening and empathy.

“Sales and customer service require faster, more complex, and personalized service than ever before,” said Mursion Vice President Christina Yu. “Many of the tools and technologies available to frontline professionals hold incredible promise but also raise expectations. And we’re living in the ‘age of the review’ where service quality is more transparent than ever. Social instincts, cultivated with repeated practice, are the key to survival in these times; they empower professionals to thrive in even volatile and uncertain circumstances.”

Additional Key Takeaways from “The Human Edge in an AI World”

  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents say artificial intelligence has made “human touch” more critical for sales. And respondents in industries that are early AI adopters—Financial Services, Manufacturing, and Technology— were more likely to say that AI has made the “human touch” more critical for sales.
  • Seventy-one percent report that emotional intelligence is becoming more important than cognitive intelligence for customer service jobs.
  • Respondents name the need for faster service, expectations of personalized service, increasingly complex technologies, and a quickly changing competitive landscape as the biggest changes to customer service over the past 5 years.

To read the full report, download “The Human Edge in an AI World” here.


Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Future Workplace, concluding in February 2021. The survey was administered online to a sample of roughly 300 Learning & Development leaders and 300 Sales & Customer Service employees working in the U.S. Respondents were asked general questions on the drivers, benefits, barriers, and impact on productivity and employee satisfaction of using VR for a range of training scenarios and its applicability in areas like leadership, sales, and customer service.

by Wendy

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