The pandemic has altered the business landscape in ways we never could have predicted. In the world of customer communications, it’s been fascinating to see how Covid has completely shifted when, how and why customers want to correspond with businesses.
The changing world of customer communications
Thanks to a function of our Inspire Messenger tool, which helps businesses send, manage and track SMS messages and emails, we’ve had a frontline view of the impact of the pandemic on customer communications. From it, we’re able to see data on how messaging has changed since the onset of Covid.
In a single year we’ve seen a 180% increase in the use of emails and a 270% rise in push notifications. We’ve also started to see growing interest in WhatsApp; not big numbers yet, but a lot of companies are running tests with this tool. Six years ago, one of our customers – a bank in Brazil – began to use WhatsApp, but their messages were sent by employees manually! Technology has come a long way since then and automation could allow this platform to change the game.
Most enlightening, however, is the tremendous 320% increase in SMS. This reflects a new trend of augmenting communications with reminders, confirmations and warnings. For example, a utilities company will message a customer to advise of an upcoming payment, then send a reminder, followed by a confirmation of the successful payment of the bill.
Why is this happening? In my opinion, the pandemic has left a lot of us pretty frazzled. Working from home, home schooling, online shopping – we all seem to have more to keep track of. Short reminders are a positive way to help us pay bills on time, but they also mean that businesses get paid faster. This leads to an immediate impact on their cash flow and customers don’t get any nasty surprises. The further knock-on effect of this is brand loyalty – an absence of negative feeling that might contribute towards them cancelling a service.
In the wake of Covid, the healthcare sector has led wider market reforms in customer care. Healthcare providers are finding their customers’ preferences have changed; demographics that had previously resisted digitisation are now open to it. Pre-Covid, many people wouldn’t have wanted telemedicine or to download an app, but now enjoy the notifications and emails that help them keep track of appointments.
Breaking down silos
These new customer behaviours offer an opportunity for businesses to reach people more efficiently and build relationships that have mutual benefits. However, in my experience, budgetary silos are a common obstacle in preventing them from advancing their customer communications capabilities.
Companies typically spend money in four places: marketing, sales, regular business operations and customer support for when things go wrong. Each group behaves in ways that drive their own KPIs, without necessarily considering how they may affect other areas. But by streamlining the workflow across these departments, a business could deliver better customer satisfaction as a whole, and lower costs with increased automation.
My forecast for the future is that communications are going to fracture further. They’ll multiply and become smaller, with more separate steps necessary to complete a transaction. In numerical terms, over the next three to five years I believe communications per customer will increase by a factor of five to eight – so that’s a lot of CX to manage. The companies that succeed will be collaborative, breaking down silos and working across departments to not only improve the customer experience but also drive revenue and reduce costs.
It’s really important to understand the worries, motivations and obstacles that customers have if we’re to help overcome them. That’s why years of experience working first-hand with businesses has been so valuable for how we develop technologies.
Aside from understanding the landscape, ability to handle scale is so important. If some of our customers are creating millions, or hundreds of millions, of communications, per month, we need a partner with the ability to handle that. Importantly, Canon was early to embrace the shift to digital but also understands that digital sometimes augments print, and print sometimes augments digital. We live in a mixed-media, omnichannel world.
This is why our relationship with Canon is so important. We love the huge investment it makes in terms of technology, ensuring its devices and our solutions can work together seamlessly. Crucially, Canon also invests in people, ensuring they have the training they need to recommend the best software and solutions to their customers.
Building partnerships like this – across businesses and across departments – can deliver amazing, transformational things in customer communications as the market continues to evolve.
Quadient is a market-leading developer of customer communications optimising software, including Quadient Inspire, offered by Canon as part of our comprehensive Business Software portfolio. We are proud to announce that Quadient recently named Canon its EMEA Partner of the Year, thanks to the strength of our strategic partnership and the major impact of Canon’s investments on the success of our projects across Europe.
For more information on customer communications solutions for your business, please visit our dedicated hub.