With many brick and mortar businesses slow to reopen, or even shutting back down in the wake of resurging COVID-19 numbers, organizations have been forced to increase their focus on communicating with their customers digitally, with an omnichannel approach.
More than ever before, companies are looking for ways to create seamless experiences and maintain relationships with their existing customers in meaningful ways that will last beyond the pandemic.
In a recent report, marketing firm Uplers surveyed digital agencies and found that over one third were recommending an increased focus on digital marketing budgets during the pandemic.
Recent research from Gartner similarly recommended a proactive customer engagement approach, noting that marketers are at the front lines defending a brand’s perception: “Customers may never know how a company’s finance or HR department responds to a major unpredicted event, but marketing sits center stage, its moves reflected in every ad campaign, message and channel. You set the tone for how customers perceive the brand during a difficult time.”
With that in mind, interest in digital marketing – and omnichannel communications – has understandably accelerated over the last several months.
While many of our customers had plans to roll out their own fully realized digital transformations over the coming months and years, the virus and subsequent lockdowns lit a fire under their office chairs to spark immediate action.
We’ve kept a close eye on this shift within our customer base, monitoring their strategic choices and new ways that they engage with customers digitally.
Here are seven key learnings from our conversations:
Timeliness is king nowadays, as customers seek quicker responses to their inquiries and issues.
SMS messaging can handle the increased workload at contact centers, especially paired with the expanding presence of conversational chatbots. We saw a dramatic increase in volume at the start of lockdown, with 8.5% growth in March and a remarkable 20% increase in April.
An overwhelming number of support tickets are hitting contact centers, signaling a growing need to support customers in real time.
More and more organizations are embracing AI chatbot solutions to handle everyday customer questions – freeing up space for highly skilled agents to focus their attention on the work they do best: empathy, solution discovery, and customer satisfaction.
A key differentiator between companies using the pandemic to cement relationships with their audiences and those struggling to keep up is their willingness to build relationships with customers outside of a purchase.
Leading organizations are providing proactive updates on topics such as store hours and safety protocols to build a layer of trust that can flourish into a revenue-driving moment.
Not only do customers appreciate proactive communication, they also want brands to understand and cater to their individual needs.
Knowing a consumer’s first name isn’t enough anymore, businesses are now looking to utilize behavioral analysis to deliver the proper messaging for maximum impact in customer interactions.
Read through social media and you’ll see retailers under fire for reducing support channels or being unresponsive. With COVID-19 disrupting supply chains nationwide, retailers must over-communicate rather than under-communicate.
Customers aren’t quick to forget, and if they’re burned by an undelivered or late package, they’re unlikely to trust again in the future. The only antidote to a breakdown in trust is communication.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve seen major shifts in customer communication based on the industries most affected by COVID-19.
Healthcare spiked by 39% during the immediate surge of cases in March, followed by another 29% growth in April. Meanwhile, communications within the hospitality and travel industries were cut in half and only saw the beginnings of an upswing in June.
Being able to communicate with your customers, no matter the medium, is a major need for businesses.
Cloud-based, omnichannel CcaaS (Contact Center as a Service) solutions can fill this need, and we’re seeing a heightened interest from customers as they look to broaden the scope of their customer engagement across multiple channels, including SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, RCS and voice.
Retail stores, restaurants, and other physical businesses are slowly recovering, but they must look to digital and omnichannel solutions if they plan on competing with their online counterparts in the future.
The pandemic only exacerbated an already growing problem for these industries, as consumers trust brands less and less, and are looking to be swayed by meaningful digital experiences.
As the Gartner report aptly put it: “The current crisis seems poised to amplify the distrust customers have of brands. Brands can push against that wave by rising to the occasion to reestablish trust through customer-centric actions.”
We’re about to see a paradigm shift in the way organizations communicate with their audiences. It’s up to innovative marketing leaders to make sure their companies ride the wave.
Craig Charles Webster is Head of Marketing Americas at Infobip, a global cloud communications platform that enables businesses to build connected customer experiences across all stages of the customer journey at scale, with easy and contextualized interactions over customers’ preferred channels.
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