COVID-19 has significantly changed the way customers communicate. Now accustomed to social distancing and movement restrictions, customers are communicating from the comfort of their homes, preferring online and social channels rather than visits to malls, restaurants or the doctor.
This is driving a communications revolution across industries and modes of communications, changing how businesses; both large enterprises and startups, communicate internally, as well as how they interact with, sell to and support their customers.
Customers are the lifeline of any successful startup. Providing a great customer experience and using the appropriate communication channels will continue to be crucial to maintaining and strengthening the relationship with customers in 2021. To help businesses understand customer experience in the new normal we released our 2020 Global Customer Engagement Report.
The report surveys 5,000 consumers across 14 countries in January and August 2020 to find out the impact of COVID-19 on how they prefer to communicate with businesses.
Evolution of channels across Asia Pacific
We saw an urgent need for organisations to accelerate digital transformation and adopt digital tools that enable business survival and growth. We also noticed the adoption of newer communications channels while increasing fragmentation in channel preferences, especially in the way consumers interact with businesses and service providers.
Businesses that largely communicated through emails and texts are now enabling their customers to reach out through video and social channels like WhatsApp for instant, convenient communications. Our report revealed a global consumer preference for emerging channels, including video, social messaging and chatbots, notably in banking, finance and insurance, education, healthcare, retail as well as transportation and logistics.
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Among APAC consumers, 69 per cent preferred connecting with their service providers through a variety of options including video, SMS, emails, and social applications such as WhatsApp.
Video communication increased significantly in Asia, with 60 per cent of consumers reporting using video chat to connect with businesses in August 2020, up from 53 per cent in January 2020. Consumers from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia showed the highest increase in preference for video chat.
Visual channels and engagement are set to see huge growth in 2021 given the increasing customer familiarity and comfort with video communications since the pandemic. Like Singapore-based startup HeyHi, an interactive online educational platform, that uses Video API to bring enhanced online classroom learning experiences to educational institutions and private tutors in Asia and North America. HeyHi’s easy to use, fully interactive whiteboard with unlimited writing space and multiple screens simplifies the learning process using video, screen sharing and instant messaging.
COVID-19 also impacted how frequently people communicated with their services providers across industries. Customer engagement with retail and e-commerce providers has seen the highest increase since the COVID-19 outbreak. Over 54 per cent of consumers have made online purchases more frequently as compared to pre-COVID-19.
Following that, logistics (44.9 per cent), education (44.7 per cent), media and entertainment (41.6 per cent), healthcare (32.1 per cent) and financial services (28.4 per cent) sectors respectively registered higher customer engagement.
Communication pain points among APAC consumers
Businesses are not the only ones facing challenges, customers too are having to adapt to the new normal. Our study revealed several pain points faced by customers in communicating with their service providers.
Globally, consumers’ top frustration was repeating themselves to different people, and calls going unanswered. Asia has the highest share of consumers (37 per cent) who reported being frustrated when they receive a message from their service provider, but were unable to reply to it directly, which is the highest globally.
Thirty per cent of consumers also reported being frustrated when they were unable to switch between different communication channels when communicating with a business.
Enhancing customer experience during COVID-19
Implementing a multichannel customer engagement strategy and enabling your customers to choose their preferred channel of communication is the need of the hour. Businesses need to integrate these channels to effectively manage the variables of every customer interaction while maintaining the context of the conversation across all channels.
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Various companies across APAC are leveraging this approach, especially during the current pandemic, to reach customers on their preferred channels, automate resources to create time and address more complex tasks.
Indonesia’s largest telecommunications and network provider, PT. Telekomunikasi Indonesia uses Messages API integrated with WhatsApp and SMS to respond to customers with commonly requested information including billing queries, product details and corporate information. By implementing a multi-channel communications strategy PT. Telekomunikasi is able to overcome the barrier of undelivered notifications.
In the coming years, agility will be the key to survival. With social distancing likely to continue into 2021, organisations must successfully adapt to new ways of conducting business and interacting with their customers virtually. But this will mean little if the experience isn’t frictionless. Organisations that meet consumers on their communications channel of choice, while limiting frustration, while continuously innovating may emerge from this turbulent era victorious.
Implementing a multichannel communications approach and creating an integrated experience that unifies the various communications services of the organisation on the same platform will remain essential for long-term business growth.
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