By Paul Meade, M.Sc, MPH

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our lives. Some of these changes will be temporary in nature, while others may take us to a more permanent new reality.

By now, everyone is very familiar with the term “social distancing.” We are finding new ways to reach out to people and stay connected, whether it’s loved ones, business colleagues, or even our customers. So, which activities of engagement will revert to the ways before the pandemic, and which ones will possibly change forever?

Businesses are finding novel ways to communicate with their customers, from clever e-mails to engaging teleconferences. Some businesses are creating highly customized messages for specific customers. For instance, some car dealers are developing messages for people who may have purchased a car a few years back and may be in the market for a new one. By combining their personal information and their buying habits, they can target an e-mail with an embedded video specifically to help them select a new car to fit their driving needs.

Is this the new future? Did the pandemic force us to embrace technology to reach our customers while minimizing the need to be physically present for the interaction? Were we already headed down this path, but the pandemic gave us a little nudge? Will new technology emerge to take us even further?

For years, companies have been gathering customer information, our likes and dislikes, our purchasing habits, our activities and hobbies, our experiences and skills, and our beliefs and preferences. Some of the more advanced companies use this information to target specific messages to groups of customers, others are still trying to figure out what to do with this information. If the future of in-person customer engagement has been altered permanently by this pandemic, then those companies that can find new ways of conducting virtual customer engagement with highly personalized messages with gain significant competitive advantage.

But what do we know works? How effective are these virtual engagement activities? What do we have to do to improve our messages? And how do we meet the needs of our customers without that “personal” touch?

We need to continue to gather customer information. We need to understand how to analyze that data, glean insights, and have these insights inform our message customization. And we need to know how to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of our new approaches to calculate a return on investment. Using the tools of data analytics and predictive modeling, a company can begin to shape the landscape in a world where social distancing may become the norm.

About the author

With nearly 40 years of experience working in industry and consulting to an array of healthcare entities, Paul lends a comprehensive understanding to our company’s consulting work with healthcare and life sciences companies. Paul’s leadership has taken Clear Point Health into its second decade as a leader in helping companies identify, understand, and engage with key customer and stakeholder groups. Together, with his partners and team, he has devised multiple proprietary research methodologies focused on quality, ethics, and transparency. Paul was recently appointed Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he teaches and collaborates with faculty on research in the Public Health Leadership Program. 

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