Client communication in professional services firms has changed completely over the past year because of Coronavirus.

Of course, we don’t need to tell you that, or the fact that the pandemic has changed the way we live and work – some of the changes have been temporary, others longer lasting.

The obvious change was moving from face-to-face to digital communication channels during lockdowns. Who would have thought in early 2020 that we would be Face Timing with granny, speaking to clients on a WhatsApp group, or having birthday parties on Houseparty?

Necessity made us all embrace digital communication channels that we may not have considered beforehand. As an example, Zoom saw its sales increase by a whopping 326% (source) in 2020. Despite the vaccination programme progressing worldwide, the firm is predicting further growth of 40% in 2021, in line with their view that video conferencing is here to stay.

Will digital client communication channels remain as popular as restrictions ease and we are able to see people in real life again?

You may have noticed a shift in your work environment, and the way you communicate with your clients and stakeholders. Having had more exposure to other digital communication channels throughout the pandemic, it is possible that they have changed the way they would like to be communicated with. We are now hearing of more professional services firms liaising with their clients on messenger apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, or Facebook Messenger.

It is of course impossible to predict the future, but if we had to have a go, these would be our main guesses:

  1. Video conferencing will remain popular for regular and routine meetings, but more important meetings will take place in person. It will become more a question of ‘is this meeting important enough for me to go to the effort of travelling?’. Businesses may want to consider drawing up guidance for their teams, e.g., an initial client consultation should happen via Zoom, annual reviews should take place in person. This is particularly important for sectors that rely on positive and long-lasting relationships, rather than business activities of a more transactional nature.
  2. In order to offer a truly customer-centric experience, businesses will need to find a way to communicate with their prospects and customers on THEIR preferred channel, not the business’. This means having to conduct research into customer preferences – and as a result, putting in place the internal processes to facilitate effective use. Considerations such as staff training and satisfying auditing or compliance requirements will need to be considered.
  3. Messenger services will become more popular for professional services firms. Prospects and clients will expect quick responses. It is important for firms to have a plan in place as to how to respond to client communications on the wide variety of channels available. In our experience, responding to the initial query on the native channel and then moving the conversation to an email or phone conversation seems to be the way that firms are dealing with this.

The downside to digital client communications

Whilst the advancement of technology and the adoption of more digital channels has certain benefits – least of all enabling us all to continue working from home throughout the pandemic – it is important to remain aware of some of the downsides:

  1. Zoom fatigue and staff feeling that they are constantly staring at a screen.
  2. Blurred lines with a feeling of having to be available outside of normal working hours.
  3. Everyone has different communication styles and preferences.
  4. Body language or facial expressions that could be lost in translation on a video call.

Most importantly, despite all the challenges we have had to deal with since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, digital communications are unlikely to fully replace our most basic human need for physical human interaction.

What are your predictions for how our communication preferences will change as we come out of the crisis? We’d love to know.

If you would like to find out more about how you and your team can embrace getting digital in a virtual world, or if you are looking at ways to use digital communications to communicate with your clients, do get in touch with us on 01903 530787 or email Lara.

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