Three years to the day since Covid-19 was classified as an international public health emergency, new research from Paragon Customer Communications has provided insight into the lasting impacts of the pandemic on customer communications.
A survey of 2,000 UK consumers suggests that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had minimal impact on the quality of customer communications delivered by service providers across retail, financial services, utilities, and telecoms.
While the general view of customer communications was positive among survey respondents, service providers in the utilities sector were the focus of the most criticism. A quarter (25 per cent) of those questioned reported that Covid had a negative impact on their interactions with utility providers, compared with the least impacted industry, online banking companies (8 per cent).
Findings from the retail sector highlight that customer experience varied within the sector. While ease of interaction decreased for all providers, supermarkets saw only a 10 per cent reduction, despite this essential service being changed beyond recognition. It should be noted that online retailers, though they were beyond the restrictions imposed on in-person businesses, were not exempt from a decrease in ease of interaction. Although it is a small decrease (0.5), this indicates that online retail is also subject to in-person retail trends.
The results also demonstrate the extent to which covid changed consumer attitudes towards their finances, as during the pandemic 72 per cent of consumers interacted with a wealth management provider. Related to this, perceptions of online banking providers were very positive: 21 per cent of respondents reported increased satisfaction, making this the most successful sector of all when it comes to perception.
Speaking about the findings, David Taylor, communications director at Paragon Customer Communications, said:
“While the pandemic caused a seismic shift in our way of life, our research has challenged this perception when it comes to customer experience. On the whole, customers did not notice a difference in the quality of the service they received, despite providers grappling with the most significant global event of this century.
“This is a testament to the value of adaptability: most consumers were satisfied with their customer service experiences because businesses had the capabilities to quickly transition to digital services. We now know that most providers get it right, and now that we are three years on from the start of the pandemic, Covid cannot be used as an excuse to deliver substandard experiences.”