Where’s the Personal Touch gone? Will we soon do everything online?

I was meeting some girlfriends for a coffee the other day, and we agreed that whilst during the pandemic, we kept in touch via Zoom and FaceTime, we missed meeting up in person – the personal touch. As humans, we need to touch or look other humans in the eye, at least not via a computer or mobile phone.

Where has the Personal Touch gone? Will we soon do everything online?
MONDAY COFFEE MORNING

I wandered off from the coffee morning and chuckled about some of the things we had chatted about; I won’t go into detail if you read this before the watershed hour! And then I saw the pitiful empty building that once housed our local branch of Barclays. This caused me to reminisce about the days when I had a very affable and friendly bank manager whom I would often see when I popped into my local branch and chatted with him. This personal touch made such a difference when it came to negotiating an overdraft! My parents had an even more deep-rooted relationship with their bank manager, who would often be at their lunch parties or social gatherings. He was part of the local community.

Since 2015 almost half the bank branches have closed, along with most Post Offices.

I remember seeing elderly people queuing in their local Post Office for their weekly pension and having quite a chat with the staff behind the counter, and no one in the queue was irritated because we knew that was their minute of ‘personal touch’.

But those days are gone, the pension drops into your bank account, and we are now left hanging on the phone for any queries. Life has become so automated, and we are all spending hours on calls listening to ‘music’ waiting to speak to someone and probably giving up as a recorded message encourages us to go online with our query as it will be quicker. I don’t think it is any quicker, but it gives the online operators one less headache to deal with. Machines have taken the place of staff, and banks do everything they can to avoid any real contact with their customers.

Where has the Personal Touch gone? Will we soon do everything online?

What about the option buttons? How many times does your problem not come under one of the options offered, so you end up pressing the button for any other query, then waiting for an age for someone to speak to and finally being told you need a different department and then getting cut off when they try to transfer you. So it’s back to the beginning, or maybe just a sigh and give up.

It’s not just financial institutions that are giving us the cold shoulder and shying away from direct contact. It is also doctors. I have no idea who my doctor is at my surgery as before Covid; I was just allocated a doctor for the day I had an appointment. Now I cannot get a doctor’s appointment – GPs see just 55% of patients face-to-face. Consultations are conducted online, and diagnosing is often done by sending a photo of the ailment.

As our regular readers know, I recently broke my wrist in Corfu. A doctor came to our villa within 30 minutes of the call, and it was a Sunday. He gave me a thorough examination, a painkilling and anti-inflammatory injection and called the local chemist to ensure they had the prescribed drugs.

I am now at the six-week stage, and I should be able to throw my splint away and get on with life, BUT my wrist does not bend or rotate in one direction, and it b****y hurts! So, where am I with the NHS? About two weeks ago, they rang, and a lovely nurse said, “keep the splint on for two weeks and then take it off and see how you go.” See how you go didn’t seem exact or entirely medical in its instruction. Can I drive? If the pain level is, say, a 4 out of 10, then should I ….. well, actually, what should I do? But the nurse was gone, and I was left to my own diagnosis.

I then received a letter giving me the option to leave a message on a message facility requesting a SIFU (Self-Initiated Follow up) if I think I need it. The letter made a SIFU sound like it was for those who are worriers or, dare I say, the hypochondriacs amongst us. All I want to know is, is this normal? I don’t want to Google and read endless differing accounts. I just want a person to look at my wrist and tell me whether this pain will eventually cease, but I don’t want to bother them unnecessarily as I know the NHS is stretched, and quite frankly, a fractured wrist is hardly life-threatening. Needless to say, I am just getting on with it or seeing how I go, and if need be, I will go to my local Minor Injuries unit as they seem more hands-on.

Unsurprisingly, I understand thousands of those who can afford it are now abandoning the NHS and booking themselves in for private treatment. Is our NHS so broken? Anyway, that is a whole other debate and one that people cleverer than I have no solution to.

Back to my automation concerns. My next beef is with travel agents, or rather the lack of. They are sadly a dying breed. My husband and I want to take a trip incorporating stops at many different places. I have been Googling, asking friends etc., for any recommendations. But at the end of the day, I would just like someone to piece it together and give me an itinerary. I want to sit at a desk with a travel agent to discuss our trip and get some proper advice from the experts. I don’t want to travel to London to go to Trailfinders, who I know are brilliant, so my only option is to talk to them on the phone or via email. I want to see them and more importantly for them to see us, to see that we are active, mobile 60 and 70 somethings so don’t send us on a trip catering for those who just want to sit. We don’t just want five* accommodation and a beach holiday, we want to see the real country, meet the people, and eat authentic food.

Where has the Personal Touch gone? Will we soon do everything online?
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

The young are quite content with this new way of shopping, banking, and organising a holiday; human interactions do not exist, which previous generations took for granted. They won’t regret the change as they never knew how it was. Their whole lives are organised through their mobile phone. I am not saying that automation is not very helpful at times, but every now and then, I hark back to days gone by and wish for a little more face-to-face interaction.

P.S. I gather the Chinese are successfully working on robots to replace GPs.

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Judy Starling
Judy Starling
4 months ago

Oh Annabel, i wholeheartedly agree with every single word. And don’t start me on shops which will only accept cards not cash…….BTW we have a very good travel agent based in Richmond. Please pm me if you’d like details.

Sarah
Sarah
4 months ago

Every word you said resonated with me, how I miss the ‘human touch’ – I am one of those people in supermarkets who queue for the checkout.
Your wrist – there is a little understood condition that can occur after a trauma called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (how I know is because I broke my wrist and when the plaster was removed if anything touched my arm it was excruciating – so I asked to have the plaster put back on while I bought a foam splint to protect my wrist – eventually a consultant diagnised CRPS – and I was referred to Wessex Rehap in Salisbury where I spent 7 weeks doing intenvie physio. My wrist now looks odd, but works and I am pain free).Basically what CRPS appears to be is a ‘self protect’ mechanism set up by your body to protect the area where damage occured. In my case everything stopped working, I could not even pick up a piece of paper, and to prevent a further injury the pain receptors are on high alert all the time.
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/complex-regional-pain-syndrome/
Get your physiio to check this out.

Brenda Kain
Brenda Kain
4 months ago

Please see somebody. I’m at the same stage for the second time in 18 months. Find the best physiotherapy you can otherwise you’ll regret it. Good luck

Margaret Longden
Margaret Longden
4 months ago

Recently bereaved, I echo everything you have said, especially when dealing with death admin. Hours spent hanging on to the phone, or wasted trawling through less than friendly websites when what was needed was a lovely human person saying “I will sort that out for you”. There were notable exceptions, my lovely kind solicitor, and a local building society who had a nominated person to do the necessary who was both efficient and understanding, and there are pay offs to this sort of help in terms of customer loyalty. One huge loss even with telephone calls is the ability to see someone’s face and read their body language, if you are any sort of empathetic person. Another excellent and thoughtful article, which I am sure will resound with your readers. Thank you.

gillyml
4 months ago

It was very chilling to read your article Annabel, as every word describes my life exactly.
And I did not like it!
I especially sympathise with your fracture, as I have been through the same experience.
My wrist is ‘deformed’ as a result, so I strongly recommend you go to A&E for advice.
You are younger than me…….

Carol
Carol
4 months ago
Reply to  Annabel

I agree with your article and particularly loathe online shopping as I want to see, feel and try on clothes .
Has your wrist been X-rayed as it shouldn’t be deformed . It will be thin after coming out of plaster due to muscle wastage . I agree with previous advice and get good physio ASAP.

Pamela
Pamela
4 months ago

Dear Annabel,
It’s been ages since I have made a comment, just one of those things .
Anyway your post was very interesting and I agreed with everything you posted.
Yes it is sad ‘ the personal touch’ is diminishing fast.
Talking about personal touch , well Annabel your friends looked a nice friendly bunch and I
am sure you enjoyed your Tête-à-tête but dear me what a sad looking table .
Where has the personal touch gone with regards to a nicely presented table? Paper cups, serviettes as plates, a snack on the wooden table it looked a sorry sight of a coffee morning.
Where are china cups and saucers gone , or even rustic looking coffee mugs or pull out all the stops a large coffee cafetière, or a teapot ? We have fallen to the new generation of not just
the face to face personal touch but paper cups etc and not laying a table properly, It doesn’t have to
a Downtown Abbey table setting but ‘ proper cups and saucers.
My daughter works and lives in London and on a visit she treated me to a visit at Kensington Palace,after the tour we had tea and coffee in the coffee shop courtyard. I was appalled at the state of the unkempt tables !Anyway our tea was brought to us in hospital type cups and NO saucers .
Before I finish I am anything but a snob! I am from a working class background in S. Wales but do like my tea in a cup AND saucer.
Hey keep up yours and Grace cheerful blog and why not treat yourselves to a nice cream tea in one of your gardens , go on pull out the stops and use china cups and saucers and of course strawberries, scones , cream oh and yes a Tea pot , have fun.
Best wishes,
Pamela , from Wales UK
Oh don’t forget the cucumber sarnies lol x

Maddy
Maddy
4 months ago

Great artilce. As one of the many thousands who has had to turn to private healthcare to receive medical support for my family, this resonates. In deed, when we were admitted to a&e recently, the doctor attending us, suggested we go privately for further assessment. Unfortunately, as I have always had complete faith in the NHS, I do not have private health insurance, and so now have no choice but to use savings.

Jane C
Jane C
4 months ago

Audley are brilliant at organising bespoke holidays. We’ve used them several times for road trips abroad and we go for cheaper accommodation too.
https://www.audleytravel.com/contact-us/offices
They have offices in Witney, Oxon and London.
We also had Zoom type calls with our travel consultant before and after our holiday this year. Can’t recommend them highly enough.

Regine Gray
Regine Gray
4 months ago

MY SON 71 DOES ALL MY HOLIDAY PLANNING FOR ME….HE IS BRILLIANT !!! WE RECENTLY WENT BY CAR FROM BERKSHIRE TO THE LAKE DISTRICT. FANTASTIC JOURNEY , THE SCENERY WAS OUTSTANDING AND WE STAYED IN DIFFERING PLACES SOMETIMES VERY POSH AND EXPENSIVE AND SOMETIMES JUST LOVELY FASCINATING PUBS, CAME BACK THROUGH YORKSHIRE AND THE PENINES….WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY ENGLAND IS, SOMETIMES AWESOME !!! I NTHE AUTUMN WE ARE OFF ON THE FERRY TO PORTUGAL AND DOWN TO THE ALGARVE STAYING IN FASCINATING CASTLES ON THE WAY DOWN AGAIN BEAUTIFUL TOWNS AND VILLAGES ON THE WAY !!WE DONT NEED ANYONE TO PLAN IT FOR US !!!

Pauline Edwards
Pauline Edwards
4 months ago

Your article has highlighted all my own personal “mini grumbles”. Not sure whether knowing they are widespread helps or not! All I know is that trying to revert to how things used to be is a futile activity.

Anna
Anna
4 months ago

So true.

Viv Oldland
Viv Oldland
4 months ago

Oh I’m so glad someone else feels the same. Just want a bit of service from a human being! Hope your wrist improves Annabel x

Scrapmate
Scrapmate
4 months ago

A friend of mine recently injured her shoulder and went through the NHS. The exercises she was told to do just seemed to make everything worse so she decided to see a physio privately. It has proved to be well worth the money with a different set of exercises and regular monitoring online (!) in addition to a weekly in person session.
Even if it’s only to put your mind at rest I would suggest a visit to a local private physio.

Judith Mary Finley
Judith Mary Finley
3 months ago

Apologies for the tardiness, but I have only just read this article (I save them up until I have some free “me” time)
I am in complete agreement with your views on the personal touch. It is sadly lacking and I think it is part of the overall lack of compassion and care in our society and politics (But I am not getting into that).
For the major part of my career I managed teams of people (not a call centre – which I abhor) but in Sales and Customer service. We prided ourselves in answering a phone call within three rings, always doing what we promised a customer and if not possible, get back to them and explain and provide solutions. A customer was valued.

With regard to employees and their value where are the HR departments these days. I have come across a few companies recently who either don’t have one or they opt to use an “off site” company.

I don’t believe we (anyone over 50) are valued in any way and in some cases completely disregarded. I live in a village where we have an older demographic and whilst volunteering at our local village hall, come across all sorts of instances where people do not have access to the internet and what’s more don’t want it. Bank branches have disappeared from our local town, to cannot contact our metropolitan council there is a telephone number but invariably when you get the extension you require, you receive a recorded message telling you no one is available and please call back, Doctors are still working in our hospitals as well as taking surgeries which means the wait to see them is longer. Our local branch of Citizen’s Advice Bureau has been closed and in this day and age where people are looking for help and advice it is left to the local people and where available, families, to help each other out.
OK rant over.