Interacting with Customers in the “New Now” Amid COVID-19

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Interacting with customers has always been a tricky proposition. The COVID-19 pandemic has more than unquestionably changed our world.  As companies look to regain lost momentum, sustain existing business activity, and return to growth, what can we learn from how the pandemic changed the way companies and customers communicate?

To answer this question, we’ve been conducting biweekly rounds of consumer research and in-depth company interviews since April to get a pulse on how interactions have changed between customers and companies, including how they manage their bills and statements. Our research is based on the responses of more than 2,300 consumers and more than 20 businesses across industries.

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As COVID-19 impacts consumer communication preferences and company initiatives, here are three actions companies can take today to maximize communications experiences amid this evolving climate.

Prioritize digital initiatives

The pandemic is forcing many companies to accelerate their print-to-digital transformations. The alignment of cost pressures and the necessity for digital communications are shifting company priorities and creating a window of opportunity.

Customers have shown an increased preference for digital. In fact, 35% of consumers say they will always choose to go paperless with a new provider, compared to 26% before the pandemic.

Digitally reticent customers are also testing new ways of interacting with their providers. For the first time,36% of respondents made an online payment, 24% of respondents accessed a bill or statement online, and 23% deposited a check via a mobile app.

Understand your customers

While customers are more open to going digital, it is important for companies to provide a convenient, engaging experience. The best way to engage customers is to deliver communications tailored to their distinct and unique needs – and they are asking for just that.

Our research revealed that consumers prefer communications that are simple and intuitive (41%); they want control of their communication preferences (33%); and they are expecting more personalization (29%).

To create more value out of your communications, it is critical to understand your customers’ preferences. Gain a complete customer view by making it easier to capture channel and content preferences, measure actions and behaviors, and collect feedback.

Expand functionality

Consumers are communicating in new ways – some for the first time – and companies can engage and retain them in digital channels if they provide optimal experiences.

Our business interviews revealed that some companies are offering flexible online payment options, leveraging virtual meetings, launching self-service options and online chat, increasing mobile communications, and providing virtual signature options.

As consumer preferences evolve, companies have an opportunity to expand their omnichannel solutions to drive customer engagement.

With 59% of consumers saying that the pandemic will change how they interact with companies for the long-term, the new ways of communication are here to stay. To align with these preferences, it is important for companies to remain adaptable, adjust their processes regularly, and maintain authenticity in client relationships.

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