Wednesday, 28th October 2020

The communication conundrum: staying connected during Covid-19

Smart data and innovative communication technologies are allowing today’s businesses to overcome the considerable challenges of managing customer experience (CX) during the ongoing pandemic. Nick Barbeary, Client Development Director at Paragon Customer Communications, gives an insight into how modern customer communications systems can enable businesses to keep pace with ever-evolving demands and lay the foundations for success in the post-COVID-19 era.

As the novel coronavirus forces the British public into isolation as lockdown measures grip the nation, and millions are furloughed, customers’ interactions with companies continue to shift as people settle into an unprecedented way of life. For organisations, keeping abreast of ever-changing customer preferences, proactively adapting communications strategies and rapidly, efficiently and, perhaps most crucially, cost effectively deploying solutions can provide a significant competitive edge.

Particularly in these times of uncertainty, delivering positive experiences through effective communication can elicit both an immediate and long-term influence on consumer behaviour and attitudes towards a business. In the midst of the crisis, this can be building lasting relationships, nurturing brand advocacy and re-assuring anxious consumers. While, if managed successfully, organisations can position themselves at the forefront of the longer-term shifts in consumer behaviour that result from this crisis.

For retailers, for instance, this can include changes in consumer purchasing behaviour – with more than three quarters (77%) of consumers expecting to continue to purchase online more once the lockdown is ended[1], and 25% of shoppers intending to continue to shop with new online retailers they have trialled during the crisis due to the positive experience they have encountered during the lockdown[2].

Now more than ever, carefully orchestrated integrated, omnichannel communication strategies represents a huge opportunity for organisations to create a truly ‘frictionless’ CX, engage customers with speed, efficiency and relevancy across a multitude of channels, and capitalise on previously untapped opportunities.

Nevertheless, formulating a strategy that not only hones in on the acute needs of customers today, but also seamlessly adapts to shifts in market dynamics as restrictions are lifted, presents a wealth of challenges.

Understanding the consumer psyche

While innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), chatbots, cloud software and big data can provide the infrastructure and tools a company will need to drive effective omnichannel strategies, they don’t create a positive CX by themselves.

To deliver the CX that consumers demand, other aspects must be carefully considered, be that gaining a comprehensive understanding of the customer mindset, having the necessary internal skills and digital-proficiencies in place, or even a robust strategy that enables a company to react quicker to market forces and global problems while still delivering services for their customers.

An in-depth knowledge of the consumer psyche – from their preferred communications channels to their unique online behaviour, and even their stage in the customer journey – can enable organisations to best centralise and leverage relevant, existing data from multiple sources to generate timely, highly engaging, personalised, and user-centric experiences at every touch point.

Only when organisations have acquired a detailed understanding of customer engagement across a multitude of channels, as well as the benefits and limitations of each one, can they hope to get the most from their communications and marketing campaigns. It is in this regard where technology truly comes into its own, helping organisations achieve more with less effort.

AI technology, for instance, when supported with the appropriate marketing knowledge, can seamlessly guide customers towards the required outcome such as a sale, or behavioural change – seamlessly switching channels automatically based on what it’s learnt.

A cohesive ecosystem

A cohesive ecosystem of customer communication management platforms (CCM), supported by agile leading-edge communications technologies such as AI, can aid companies in traversing a wealth of online and offline communication channels and propel them firmly into the delivery of genuine positive CX.

For customers, the result is a more unified communications experience across all channels, with contrasting messaging and branding distributed via varying digital and traditional media eliminated. Consumers are able to interact on their terms, at the times of their convenience and across the channels of their preference, with the ability to seamlessly switch between different channels and devices.

Whereas from an operational standpoint, all communications to and from customers can be visible to those who need access to them across all internal departments. This can not only effectively break down operational silos, but also limit the likelihood of different internal teams bombarding customers with a tirade of messages, or potentially more detrimental, having periods during which they are not contacted at all.

Knowledge is power

To put themselves in the best position to adapt to changes in the marketplace, tackle the challenges of the resultant disruption of the crisis, and deliver the best CX through effective multi-channel communications, organisations are increasingly finding value in the support of a knowledgeable and experienced customer communications partner.

Marketing expertise can ensure each stage of an omnichannel communication strategy, from data-driven audience understanding and customer profiling, through to campaign strategy and planning, personalisation and even channel selection can be efficiently, rapidly and cost-effectively planned and deployed.

Only when this is achieved, can organisations hope to deliver omnichannel strategies that benefit from customer-relevant messages, incisive targeting, customer journey mapping and, by using the most appropriate communication channels, cost-efficiencies.

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