Vonage Report: Businesses Must Become Agile, Adapt Quickly to Pandemic-Related Changes in Customer Preferences

Vonage has released a new report titled “COVID-19 Reshapes the Global Customer Engagement Landscape,” detailing changing consumer preferences and behaviors and how businesses and service providers need to transform their customer engagement strategies to become more agile and adapt to changes driven by the COVID era.

This report follows the January 2020 Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report, and captures unique insight about consumer communications preferences in the age of COVID-19 compared to pre-COVID preferences.

Key findings demonstrate that the pandemic accelerated the adoption of newer communications channels while increasing fragmentation in channel preferences, especially in the ways that consumers interact with businesses and service providers.

Video Continues to Reign Supreme

To connect with consumers today, Vonage explained, businesses must turn to less traditional channels and employ technology, such as APIs, that allow them the flexibility to embed programmable capabilities — including voice, video, messaging and verification — directly into existing applications and workflows.

Since January, globally there has been 140 percent growth in the number of people who prefer to connect with businesses via video. Video chat has also become a mainstream addition to people’s everyday lives, and U.S. adoption has experienced four years of growth in just seven months, with 43 percent of Americans now video chatting with businesses regularly, up from 28 percent in January.

  • Across all regions, 55 percent of consumers have used video to connect with businesses and service providers, up from 44 percent in January.
  • In Latin America, seven out of every 10 consumers have video chatted with a business, up from six out of 10 in January.
  • In August, a majority (54 percent ) of respondents in EMEA reported using video chat, up from 42 percent in January.

Consumer preference for video chat has grown in banking, finance and insurance, education, healthcare, retail, and transportation and logistics. For example:

  • 16 percent of respondents preferred video chat in August to get step-by-step advice about a banking service, up from 9 percent in January.
  • 25 percent of respondents preferred to speak with a therapist for a counseling session in August via video chat, up from 18 percent in January.

Due to the advent of widespread distance learning, 42 percent of respondents report they prefer to engage with other students and teachers in a virtual classroom in August, up from 35 percent in January. According to Vonage, this trend will likely continue as more students participate in virtual learning environments.

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New Preferences in Communications Channels Emerge

Emerging communications channels that saw an increase in preference include voice calls and messaging via social messaging apps, and chatbots. The communications channels that experienced a decrease in preference since January include landline phone calls, email, and SMS.

Additionally:

  • SMS preference dropped 23 percent between January and August, as other preferred methods of communicating with businesses came out on top.
  • With 30 percent of the vote, mobile phone calls are still consumers’ favorite way to connect with businesses. But the remaining 70 percent of consumers prefer a variety of other options.
  • Emerging communications channels such as social messaging apps showed a significant increase over January numbers, with 23 percent more consumers choosing these apps as a top-three method for calling businesses.

Non-traditional Times Call for Non-traditional Communications Measures

As Vonage explained, organizations that meet consumers on their communications channel of choice, while limiting frustrations may emerge from this turbulent era stronger than before.

Some of the customer service hurdles that surveyed consumers reported are:

  • Repeating themselves to different people (59 percent).
  • Calls going unanswered with no other channels available to help (56 percent). This highlights the importance of secondary and tertiary choices for communication methods. Offering another channel such as live chat can ensure that customer’s needs are still met.
  • When there aren’t enough options to contact a business to suit a customer’s needs at the time (37 percent in APAC, 51 percent in LATAM, 36 percent in North America, 34 percent in U.K., and 35 percent in EMEA).

These frustrations underscore how important it is for businesses and service providers to understand and offer a variety of communications channels. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that businesses be nimble enough to meet consumers on the channels they prefer, at the times they prefer.

The ability to enable this kind of connection and innovation is the value the Vonage platform brings to organizations all over the world. Through a unique and powerful combination of unified communications, contact centers and communications APIs, the Vonage Communications platform delivers both the power and the flexibility today’s customers need to disrupt their industries, and enables the type of business continuity, remote work, and remote delivery of services that are now essential.

Download the full report.