HR professionals and others in the professional services industry have been forced to adapt in the pandemic and adopt new tools – but how has this fared? And how optimistic are employers for 2021?
Yell Business has released new research into how small businesses have adapted to survive in light of Covid-19 and how the pandemic is changing the way businesses and consumers communicate, to find out exactly that.

The new study reveals the scale of the challenge business owners have faced in recent months with three quarters (76%) of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) introducing a new service as a result of Covid-19.

The adaptability of the professional service sector was evidenced in the report, with 62% of businesses having introduced a new service. Of those new services:

  •   40% started doing online video consultations
  •   32% introduced an online booking service
  •   26% online video tutorials
  •   25% online video events

Over half (54%) of businesses in the professional services sector who introduced a new service said it was crucial for them to be able to survive the pandemic, with 77% stating they plan on continuing the service post Covid-19.

Who’s getting the message?

The research also identified how the global pandemic has accelerated changes in the ways businesses in the professional services sector are communicating with their customers. Nearly two thirds (62%) of businesses have introduced new ways of communicating in 2020 and it’s instant messaging platforms that are coming to the fore. 29% have started communicating with customers via online video calling and nearly one in five (18%) have started using WhatsApp. 12% of businesses in the professional services sector have started using Facebook for the first time whilst 14% have started texting customers.

Whilst a phone call and email are still ingrained as the most popular communication methods for professional service businesses and consumers alike, when it came to driving leads during the pandemic, WhatsApp was found to be the most effective communication channel, with 25% of business owners stating that using the messaging service led to an uplift in enquiries. WhatsApp was also found to be the best tool for increasing customer satisfaction in the sector.

Getting the message in an instant

Instant messaging tools such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other social messaging platforms were found to be vital communication tools for businesses in the sector. Nearly half (42%) of businesses surveyed said that instant messaging is key for business success post Covid-19, whilst 59% stated they had seen increased customer satisfaction thanks to using instant messaging services during the pandemic. 30% said that they had seen an increase in website traffic from using the service and 28% saw an increase in sales.

Choosing the correct channel to communicate with customers was found to have far reaching benefits for professional service businesses too. Yell’s research revealed that over a third (36%) of consumers would be more likely to buy from a business that communicated with them on their preferred channel. 28% of consumers would be more likely to recommend the business to a friend and 24% would be more likely to spend more with that business.

Optimism in the face of adversity

Despite the challenges brought on by Covid-19, businesses in the professional service sector remain positive for the future. Nearly two thirds (61%) of business owners state that they are optimistic about the success of their business in 2021 and, on average, 61% said they were more prepared to deal with another lockdown.

Claire Miles, Chief Executive Officer of Yell commented:

The last six months have been incredibly tough for businesses in the professional services industry but it’s heartening to see that the majority of the sector remains optimistic in the face of adversity. Our diverse local businesses are the cornerstones of our community, which is why it’s crucial that now, more than ever, Yell continues to champion small businesses and provide the digital tools and insights needed for them to thrive.

Our research highlights not only the sheer adaptability of businesses but also their ability to find the right way to communicate change to their existing and potential customers. It’s clear that during these uncertain times, instant messaging services have been a real lifeline to businesses in the sector who have had to adapt and adjust their models quickly. Instant messaging, as we are aware from our own developments with Apple in this area, facilitates timely and conversational communication between businesses and consumers and as the findings show, many businesses will still be relying on these services to succeed post pandemic.

To access further stats from the study and get tips and advice from Yell Business on how to communicate effectively with customers, please visit: https://business.yell.com/sme-insight/whos-getting-the-message/

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.