The report shows 41 per cent of small businesses reduced in-person communication with their customers and six per cent stopped meeting with their customers alltogether. The report found 15 per cent indicating video conferencing via platforms like ZOOM was the top format, while 46 per cent relied on email as the number one method of communication.
Business to Business operations saw the biggest uptake on video-conferencing and messaging through apps. Direct to consumer businesses were more likely to use social media, including Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct.
“Small businesses thrive because of the relationships they have with their customers, but they have had to shift the ways they connect with customers,” said Mandy D’Autremont, Senior Director, Member Experience and Strategy at CFIB in a media release Wednesday..“They have been forced to adapt to the pandemic and it prevented many from being able to see their customers in-person. Digital communication channels allowed many business owners to maintain their relationships with their customers, but this shift comes with its own unique set of challenges.”
But the move is not without challenges. Forty-six per cent of respondents indicated they felt overwhelmed having to keep track of a variety of digital communication channels, and 38 per cent said they regularly forget to check for messages on digital platforms
“The rapid shift to digital communication has meant the difference between surviving and closing down entirely for some businesses, for example enabling customers to order curbside pickup over email or find new businesses over Instagram,” D’Autremont said. “Now, as we are seeing the start of a second wave in parts of the country, digital communication is going to continue being an essential tool for many businesses,” added D’Autremont. “We urge any business owners who need help adopting new tools to call CFIB’s Business Helpline or visit cfib.ca to get free one-on-one help.”
CFIB’s report, Connecting with Customers during the Pandemic, is the first in a series the business group plans to release this fall to help Canadian businesses.