Relationships will never be the same again. The internet has seen to that. Liaisons personal and professional alike have been transformed by the digital revolution.

Dating, flirting, courtship, and even dumping are now facilitated by online exchanges and a suite of apps designed both to intensify the experience and, when the day comes, erase the evidence. In a recent US survey by the Pew Research Center, 41% of 18-29 year olds in a serious relationship said that they have felt closer to their partner because of online or text message conversations.

Unsurprisingly an equal number said that their partner had been distracted (annoyingly so, was my inference) by their mobile device while they were together but there can be no doubting the impact upon relationships of this kind of technology. All personal relationships are digital now.

In the business arena too, brands are striving effectively to incorporate digital relationship management into their existing customer service model. It’s all about ‘new types of conversation’. More frequent, better quality customer dialogue, providing richer data, leading to a clearer understanding of their needs, enabling targeted and timely messaging relating to support and offers which are more personalised and immediate.

In their perceptive book, Return on Relationship, readily abbreviated to ROR, Ted Rubin and Kathryn Rose describe relationships as the ‘new currency’, the digital revolution having turned marketing on its head, bringing us back to our roots. The clue is in the name, social media.

The book advocates that digital relationships are managed with the same skills and sensitivity which deliver success in offline relationships (or relationships, as we used to call them!). The winning behaviours, identified by the authors, are listening, taking the time to engage, prioritising customer needs, placing your ego on the back seat and focusing on people not profit.

This makes perfect sense and we all know of businesses large and small which are flourishing in no small part due to the distinctive, rewarding, digitally enabled conversations they are having with their key audiences.

There is a minor theme in Rubin and Rose’s book which I specifically want to flag, however. And that is the positive influence on business relationships of actual personal contact – yes, by picking up the phone or arranging to meet. As they say, If you want to add value to your relationships, resist the urge to take social shortcuts…

Clearly brand teams cannot meet all of their customers but they can meet some and within client/agency and client/firm relationships it is all too easy these days to rely on email. In my work as a business relationship consultant, I am still amazed at how often the parties to important relationships know relatively little about each other. They are connected but, in my view, this is faux connectedness.

Fully functioning relationships are essential in an era where all business levers are measured and need to be optimised. Such relationships are founded on rapport and trust which are only established through the investment of personal time and the identification of shared interest.

It has been said that we live in a world of ‘and’. We no longer want to choose A or B, we want both. We want it all, now. Digital innovation has contributed massively to this belief in endless possibility and changed for all time how we manage our relationships, private, public and professional.

But let’s not allow the momentum of digital communication to replace or even diminish face to face or voice to voice interaction. Personal contact is more important now than ever.

The ‘new type of conversation’ is an ‘and’, not an alternative. There is still a massive difference between a virtual assistant and a trusted advisor, between humanising the internet and being human.