Customer communications in the time of Covid

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Customer communications in the time of Covid
CX will now determine whether an enterprise struggles or soars.
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Three lessons Aussie businesses should take from the pandemic.

The events of the past two years have forced organisations to find new ways to engage with their customers and the smart ones will focus on making those interactions count.

How well did your business fare when government shutdowns to slow the spread of the virus meant interacting with customers face to face was no longer a possibility? For many Australian enterprises, pivoting to digital in 2020 meant jettisoning deeply embedded processes and practices and experimenting with alternative ones that enabled them to maintain business continuity through a period of unprecedented uncertainty.

Customers, too, had to get used to doing many things differently – swapping gym sessions for Pilates via video, seeing their doctor on the small screen rather than in the flesh, and shopping online, instead of in the supermarket, to name a few.

Their sentiments about online interactions appear to have altered too – and fast. Research published by GlobalData in 2021 revealed that 87 percent of business leaders believed customer engagement and preferences had changed significantly since the onset of Covid.

When consumers start wanting to do things differently, businesses must evolve apace, or risk being elbowed aside by competitors more willing and able to keep the customer satisfied.

Here are three strategies to help you capture and retain business in the post-Covid era.

Follow their lead

Do you know where your customers hang out online? And are you there too? If your answers to these questions are ‘no’ and ‘no’ then you need to find out fast and hotfoot it there.

Why? Because in the digital first environment the virus has helped to create, consumers expect to be able to dictate when and how they’ll interact with brands, not vice versa. For traditional businesses, that may mean augmenting tried and true communication channels – think email, SMS and the telephone – with web chat, social media and even videos.

Of course, the challenge when you do is ensuring your customer experience – the series of interactions that determine the way customers perceive and feel about your business – remains consistent and on-brand, across each and every one of those channels. It’s no easy feat, unless you’ve invested in a unified communications platform that allows you to orchestrate and oversee all your interactions via a single, secure platform.

Get up close and personal

Australian consumers are creatures of habit but shutdowns, supply chain disruption and the general up-ending of the status quo since early 2020 have seen many of us branch out and try new brands, businesses and shopping modes for the first time.

What are we looking for when we make the decision to sample something or somewhere new? Whether we’re in the market for hardware or a hamburger, most of us value quality, convenience and reliability and we’ll take our trade to suppliers that can promise and deliver this trifecta of benefits.

Receiving highly personalised customer experiences when we do can encourage us to keep coming back to those suppliers long term. For businesses, that means providing offers, recommendations and communications which are relevant, consistent and personal. A solution that generates detailed, up-to-the-minute customer insights can help you create them and should be a priority investment for businesses that don’t already have one in their technology stack.

Focus on human connections

The virus has kept Australians apart from one another – heartbreakingly so, in many instances. As a consequence, our appreciation for human contact and interaction is arguably higher than it’s ever been. A whopping 82 percent of us say we want more of it from the brands we deal with.

How can businesses best deliver that contact, in an era in which digital communication dominates? For some, it can be as simple as picking up the phone, rather than relying solely on chatbots and other soulless, self-serve options to support customers. For others, a video call to finalise paperwork, rather than umpteen emails, will pay dividends in the form of improved customer sentiment.

Pre-Covid, customer experience was already a very big ‘thing’. Post the virus, which has forced consumers and businesses to change, virtually overnight, the way they interact with one another, it’s arguably the only thing that will determine whether an enterprise struggles or soars in 2022. Against this backdrop, investing in tools and technologies that can help you to do so easily and effectively at scale is likely to serve your business extremely well.

Brendan Maree is Vice President Asia Pacific of 8x8.

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