The COVID-19 pandemic is having a dramatic impact on many aspects of our daily lives, compelling people to work at home where that’s possible, and for all of us to keep our distance even on routine shopping trips or walks in the park. Having said that, so far, the pandemic does not seem to be driving major changes in customer communication management (CCM). Stay-at-home policies and social distancing make it awkward, if not impossible, for businesses to communicate face-to-face with customers, but companies that provide CCM solutions are carrying on routinely in most segments.
In the area of electronic communications, companies have reported business as usual, with no significant swings in volume. This is probably due to the public perception that paper mail is still safe to receive and to handle. Despite this positive view, some firms in the print-to-digital market are actively pushing customers and prospects to move more of their paper documents to electronic processing and delivery – but this is their business focus in normal times, too. One interesting development is that some billers have been exploring the idea of delivering invoices through bank channels that already allow bank customers to make electronic payments not only for credit cards and mortgages, but also to utility companies, retailers and others.
One reason for the positive view of paper mail is that the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Surgeon General have reported that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is being spread through the mail. This is good news for the United States Postal Service (USPS), which says it is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and continues to follow strategies and measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health departments.
At the same time, however, USPS is predicting a reduction in mail volumes for the next two quarters, with most of the loss in the category of marketing mail and periodicals. First-Class mail has also experienced a reduction in volume of 2% compared to last year. Looking ahead, USPS believes that mail volume will rise again somewhat by 2022, but it doesn’t expect volumes to reach the level of pre-pandemic years. This may not be anything new, since declines in the volume of First-Class mail have been ongoing for quite some time, due at least partly to the increasing use of electronic channels for both business and personal communications.
The leading print service providers (PSPs) are up and running and are taking proactive and stringent precautions inside their facilities to prevent any COVID-related disruptions in their operations. All non-production and non-essential staff are now working from home offices. Inside the plant, the PSPs have developed workforce separation practices and are using staggered work shifts to continue to get the work out with a limited number of people on the job at the same time. Employees are encouraged to wash their hands frequently, and all production equipment and workstations are being sanitized between shifts. They’ve also established separate ingress and egress points into and out of their facilities.
Apart from the precautions taken by the PSPs, most CCM operations continue to carry on close to normal. We expect few additional changes with the current declines in new cases of COVID-19 in most regions of the U.S. and the re-opening of businesses that have been forced to close. Many corporations are just now beginning to bring workers back into the office. As the nation moves closer to a “normal” status, we can all hope to return to the economic growth rate seen over the last couple of years. In the meanwhile, stay safe.