As offices closed and travel stopped during COVID-19, customer engagement became a challenge for many businesses. Here's how they dealt with it.
The pandemic forced businesses to allow their employees to work from home. This was widely discussed in the media as a new norm for companies. But what went undiscussed was how businesses managed customer engagement as COVID-19 forced closure of offices and field visits. The obvious answer was online activities. Many security companies began offering webinars and virtual exhibitions of products.
But how do you manage to grab the customer's attention for a considerable time in the world wide web that is fraught with distractions?
Christian Morin, Vice President Cloud Services and Chief Security Officer at Genetec
explained that they migrated the entirety of their operations remotely. From services to field engineering and technical certification, all went online. Virtual events replaced real-world shows and seminars.
Employees as crucial as customers
Keen Yao, VP at Hikvision
Digital Technology, said that market strategy had to derive from the user's perspective, including increased online customer service investment.
"For example, we have organized several webinars to make up for offline customer communication that cannot be done due to the epidemic," Yao said. "Then, from the product side, we also introduced some updates in products or solutions related to our customers' efforts with epidemic prevention. One example is temperature screening thermal cameras and solutions with social distancing, which have given full play to Hikvision's technological accumulation in artificial intelligence."
At the same time, the company saw new opportunities in SMB applications during the epidemic. The previous SMB solutions were mostly related
to business challenges, such as loss prevention in the retail industry. But now they are seeing more focus on employee safety. Yao feels that in the future, the demands for employee safety protection will become more prominent.
Tomohiro Tsuji, GM of Business Planning & Promotion in the Security Business Division of OPTEX
, added that they also tried to increase customer contact via webinar and vertical exhibition.
"But there is much room to improve," Tsuji explained. "The demand for virtual reality technology or tools will increase along with the popularization of such remote events."
Striving for business as usual, online
Despite the pandemic, many companies continued to pursue their business strategy. Thomas Lausten, CEO of MOBOTIX
, said that his company could utilize its products and solutions to help prevent dangerous situations for its own employees and visitors. They were also able to offer these solutions to their customers.
"But most of all, we have pushed the further and new development of our products and solutions," Lausten said. "Every six months, we present our innovations to our customers and partners, and it was vital for us to keep this rhythm. We cannot invite them to our Global Partner Conference this year to show what is new, but thanks to technical solutions for online meetings, we can still reach out globally. It is incredible to observe how the interface to customers has changed – virtual trade shows or events hosted online are now starting to develop and show first successes."
Virtual trade shows
Joon Jun, President of the Global Business Division at IDIS
, said that they have also adapted the way they work, like other companies. One of its primary focus has been virtual trade shows
"This month, we have launched the IDIS Virtual Showcase," Jun said. "This replicate, online, the way our staff and distribution and system integration partners would normally show customers around our booths at Intersec, IFSEC, and ISC West. Customers can now take a guided virtual tour, or visitors can simply register and browse the booth in their own time."
IDIS is also working with systems integrators to identify and secure video projects in resilient and growth sectors, and these differ region by region. The company still sees strong sales in the education and logistics sectors in the US, while new growth is coming from cannabis sales and production and residential markets.
Will these continue beyond the pandemic?
The critical question here is if these new trends are here to stay
. Axis Communications, for one, has indicated that they would continue to pursue the online efforts post-COVID.
"We have shifted from physical to online customer events and tradeshows, which have been very successful and something we'll continue beyond the pandemic," said Ray Mauritsson, CEO of Axis Communications
. "We have maintained our pace of innovation and have released all of the new products we have planned to on schedule. Plus, we're happy to say that the pandemic hasn't impacted our ability to run sustainable business operations. In fact, due to the travel restrictions, we managed to find new, remote solutions for working processes which have resulted in less impact on the environment, and which we plan to continue in the future."
Still, the pandemic has only given the industry a short-term view of how these strategies work. The critical problem is that most of the analyses have focused on how businesses have managed to continue despite remote working but not its impact on employees and customers in the longer term. We may continue to see a hybrid business model, but its real effect is yet to reveal itself.
Going the extra mile
Finally, the pandemic has prompted more thoughtful action from some manufacturers, which went beyond the online customer engagement efforts. For instance, VIVOTEK gave a significant focus on customer engagement through webinars. But, during the initial days of COVID-19, when the world struggled to procure face masks and related gear, the company decided to extend a helping hand.
"We know it's a difficult time for everyone, so we tried hard to show our concern and assist our partners in staying healthy and resilient," said Peter Chang, Director of Product Development Division, VIVOTEK
. "VIVOTEK not only sent washable mask covers to some of our overseas partners who needed them when the world was facing a shortage, but also supported our distributors in regional marketing to purchase customized anti-epidemic products for clients, such as facial mask, mask shield, and social distancing floor decal stickers."