Brent Haumann is the Managing Director at Striata, Africa. Photo: LinkedIn
Brent Haumann is the Managing Director at Striata, Africa. Photo: LinkedIn

Four ways customer communication changed in 2020

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 4, 2020

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By Brent Haumann

All of us have witnessed immeasurable changes in 2020, with disruptions to the way we live our lives and do business.

Customer communication is no exception. While business was already embracing digital, Covid-19 only accelerated this transformation.

For some organisations, this simply meant increasing the volume of communication sent out via email, social media, and in-app notifications. But for the smarter ones, it meant hitting the right frequency of touchpoints and ensuring their content was relevant and personalised.

They also understood that customers’ needs and expectations changed as a result of the pandemic. Overwhelmed and anxious, customers demanded relevance and hyper-personalisation from the organisations communicating with them.

But what did that mean at a practical level? And what does it mean for customer communication plans in 2021?

Invest in email marketing

According to EmailOut, 2020 has motivated a “digital detox,” with people consciously taking a break from checking or posting on social media and some even deleting their accounts completely. Documentaries such as The Social Dilemma have only helped to accelerate this trend by making people aware of the potential harm caused by spending too much time on social media apps.

Fortunately, one channel does not seem to have suffered the same fate. Email continues to be a source of information, especially business-to-customer communication. At the same time, email is more customisable and easier to personalise than ever.

Studies have shown that most people would prefer organisations to communicate with them via email as opposed to text, phone calls, direct mail, or social media – regardless of their age and socio-economic background. That won’t change in 2021 and will, in all likelihood, only become more prevalent.

Target conversations, not conversions

Now is not the time to push hard sales messages. Organisations should relook their selling strategies to incorporate empathy and community. Clients who notice this remember and reward such brands with customer loyalty and referrals. This also provides the opportunity to reconnect with lost customers through messages of support and encouragement.

When the economic upswing does eventually come, customers who are presently cash-strapped will make their returns to spend money on items they value once again.

Find a way to provide exceptional value

Traditional approaches to customer communication no longer cut it. Organisations now have to demonstrate, and provide, value to their customers. With belts tightened even further given the effects of the pandemic, the pressure is on for brands to provide service levels that are excellent, to say the least.

This can be demonstrated through the provision of financial support services such as cost savings, payment holidays or steering clear of hiking prices. It is wiser to place emphasis on the customer journey and to seek ways how to improve this experience.

Encourage digital adoption, but prioritise customer choice

It’s still important that organizations let customers decide which channel they are comfortable engaging with. While adaptation and agility are key, doing away with channels due to low engagement shouldn’t be implemented now. After all, familiarity is comforting and has been in short supply during 2020.

Keep the communication lines open

Customer communication has always been crucial to a positive customer experience. 2020 has only underlined how important listening is. it’s also shown how vital it is that organizations adapt to the conditions around them.

Even if the Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control by the introduction of a vaccine, 2021 is sure to come with its own set of challenges, so it’s best to prepare for anticipated business hurdles ahead of time. One of the ways to prepare ahead of time is to take time out to listen to customer feedback - you’ll pick up nuggets of information which you can use to cleverly adapt your business strategy for success.

Brent Haumann is the Managing Director at Striata, Africa

BUSINESS REPORT

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