Why has client communication been so poor during the pandemic?

Client communications have noticeably slowed and dropped in quality since the COVID-19 outbreak, says Virginie O’Shea, founder of Firebrand Research, who highlights the importance of regular interactions and listening to views and concerns carefully.

Although I’ve been interviewing people from different functions over the last year and a bit – compliance, operations, trade support, data management and governance types, to name just a few – they have nearly all mentioned the same thing about their vendors and service providers. Client communications have markedly slowed and dropped in quality over the last 12 to 18 months.

Some have been left hanging for months when it comes to answers to basic questions, others haven’t heard a peep from their vendor about expected product roadmap changes, and many are missing the interactivity of their normal client forum. It is understandable that at the start of the pandemic, vendors and service providers had to focus on getting used to a potentially very new and different mode for maintaining business as usual. Establishing a work from home setup for their staff, ensuring managed services remained resilient, and that software development and rollouts could continue were all top priorities. No client could argue with those agenda items.

But why, when we’ve adapted as an industry to this new way of working and in some countries actually gone back to some semblance of normality, is client communication still so patchy? We’re all used to networking remotely or in a hybrid fashion now, vendors need to get back to focusing on keeping their clients happy and engaged.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that the vendors that seem to have come out the best during the pandemic have been those that have approached communication in a sensible and open manner. They have provided regular interactions with their clients on a one-to-one basis during which views and concerns have been listened to carefully. They have updated clients quickly and honestly about any delays to new functionality or problems that have arisen that need to be fixed. They aren’t missing in action, they’re on hand quickly to deal with complaints and feedback as necessary.

Some have even thought about how to simulate the interactivity of social events by bringing groups of clients onto calls to canvass views in a more relaxed environment. Not by broadcasting in a one directional manner about strategy on a pre-recorded video, but actually allowing these clients to talk to each other as well as to the vendor’s team. A little creative thinking can go a long way.

Now, this might not sound like rocket science, but it all makes a difference to client retention. No one wants more meetings for meetings’ sake. I’m not advocating more Zoom/Teams/pick your comms tool sessions here to add to people’s already busy calendars. Just make sure the lines of communication are open, you have clear information about the product roadmap readily available for anyone that needs it, you’re listening and responding to feedback or questions quickly, and maybe think a little outside the webinar box for your client sessions.