Communicating with customers in the post-Covid eraNovember 10, 2020
I love big metropolitan cities, where almost every neighborhood has its own subculture. So much personality, so many stories. What's the main reason for people gathering in big cities?
It's business opportunities definitely. However, businesses are now remote and they aren’t returning to the office. In fact, they’ve realized they are even more productive with everyone at home. And it’s a self-feeding loop, the longer the pandemic lasts, the more people will appreciate the new remote productivity. Remote is the keyword here: remote offices, remote meetings, remote learning, remote performance, remote everything. Covid19 was just the enabler, that single catalyst that helped us realize it’s time to move on to another way of productivity!
"Ok, ok for now, but when all of this ends life will come back to the way it was in the past!" I believe it won't because the cultural shift is already being made and as everybody knows, this can’t be reversed once started. There could be only a slim chance for us to revert to the pre-covid era, that is if the system, the technological backbone that we stand now, wasn’t ready to cope with the new infrastructure demands. Clearly not the case and there is a single-word answer to it: Bandwidth.
For the first time in history, we have enough bandwidth for making quality video calls and sharing our screens from virtually everywhere; and most importantly with low cost. Furthermore, the bandwidth increase trend will be boosted with emerging 5G and fiber-to-home technologies.
So remote working seems to be here to stay even when the pandemic ends and equally importantly, it will enhance 2 more business trends:
- Flexible working hours, which allow employees to start and finish their workday when they want.
- No geographical boundaries, as businesses will have the option to hire from anywhere in the world, a truly great thing for the geographic inequality and the diversification of workforce (the topic of another post to come :-), as well as for the fact that more businesses will operate across time zones.
Now let’s move onto the next big question, that is "how will the new normal of remote everything be affecting meeting and communicating with B2B customers?"
Since 2016 that we launched Pobuca Connect, our main focus has been on the experience that a customer receives within a real-time communication, while our vision is to optimize the way we communicate in business. Before Covid19, the vast majority of B2B communications were in-person meetings, phone calls, and emails. During the pandemic and under the remote working reality, we noticed in our app stats new patterns arising in business communications - this is actually the first time it happens since the email replaced fax machines!
A new normal was observed, with ad-hoc phone calls getting fewer, giving their place in more structured communications. Check below some of the following trends that already existed pre-covid, but I strongly believe that they will be permanently "hardwired" in the post-covid business culture:
- Cold calling for customer acquisition is dying. Actually, this was dying before Covid19 but accelerated now as no-one wants to receive a call from a stranger while eating lunch at home. I know more and more people that don't ever pick up calls from unknown caller IDs. Cold calling is already being replaced by inbound marketing: In 90% of the times, B2B customers start their purchases with a google search. This means that you have to be "there" when they are searching for your products or services and have a solid inbound marketing strategy in place.
- Less in-person meetings, more virtual. On average, a B2B sales rep meets in-person with each of her clients approximately 6 times per year. Not all of those meetings have the same purpose and value through: half of them are for social bonding including also "small talks", and these have to remain in-person, while the other half to collaborate on a specific issue. The second category will be replaced by more virtual meetings, which are more practical, relaxing, and cost less, especially if traveling is needed; about the first one, I am sure a few beers here and there will be a keeper, as a human touch will always be invaluable.
- Fewer "out of the blue" phone calls with customers. An account manager makes yearly 10 calls per client on average. Our insights show that unscheduled calls will be reduced since customer's working hours or time zones are not fixed anymore, to be partially replaced by pre-organized and structured virtual meetings that will be arranged through emails or text messages.
- More emails & text messages, less real-time communication. This is the impact of the different time zones that businesses will operate post-covid since global hiring is now possible. Have you ever tried to set up a call with someone in Australia while living in Europe - a real nightmare! Such issues will arise more often, so asynchronous communication methods, like emails, will be preferred.
- Fewer face-to-face events, more virtual. Now that we realized how relaxing and cost-effective it is to participate in virtual events and webinars the river cannot go back. However face-to-face events will not seize to exist either since human networking and interaction are irreplaceable. What should we expect hereafter the pandemic? More than 50% of the events to be virtual, while face-to-face events will become more human-centric.
Wrapping it up, communicating with customers in B2B will be strongly affected by the pandemic, as the new normal has already arrived. Major disruption for all of us for sure in the way we are doing business, yet at the same time, this looks like a Covid19 legacy that will make us more productive and focused. By leveraging technology to address the new challenges we will end up communicating more and with better structure. Like the email invaded business communications in the early 2000s, now it's the time of virtual meetings that will replace part of the traditional phone calls and in-person meetings.