Covid-19 is prompting a shift in UK households’ digital activity. According to EY’s survey of 2,000 UK consumers, many consumers are increasing usage of services they already have – 29 per cent have used TV streaming services more often, 30 per cent report an increase in home working via collaboration applications and 35 per cent are making more mobile phone calls.
Adrian Baschnonga, Global Lead Telecommunications Analyst, EY said: “We are seeing a step-change in demand for digital connectivity and content in the wake of coronavirus, as household behaviors adapt to these challenging times. Elevated levels of home working alongside a broadening range of online behaviours underline the importance of robust networks now and in the days, weeks and months to come.”
News quality is front of mind
The research also reveals that news quality is a priority among households at a time when news consumption is on the up: half of consumers have looked at news content more often since the crisis began. PSBs are benefitting from the desire for quality, with 40 per cent of consumers relying more heavily on them for news content and 77 per cent believing they are coping well with the crisis since it began.
Evolving customer support needs
The new wave of digital demand is also apparent in households’ evolving needs in terms of customer support: nearly half (46 per cent) would be happy to use automated customer service and virtual assistants to ensure quick access. This comes at a time when many customer support functions are under strain – close to one quarter (24 per cent) of consumers who have accessed a customer service centre during the crisis have had a poor experience. In addition, 23 per cent of respondents are concerned that businesses may not be able to keep their personal data safe during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, broadband and mobile network providers are perceived to be coping well by 75 per cent and 73 per cent of consumers respectively, with only 7 per cent and 5 per cent voicing negative perceptions. However, other industry actors rank further down: only 54 per cent think social media platforms are faring well while and just 45 per cent have a positive view of print media performance.
Customer loyalty and network quality
This good news for telcos and TV providers is echoed by consumer indications of loyalty. 89 per cent of households are unlikely to switch broadband provider and 93 per cent are unlikely to switch mobile and pay-TV provider due to the coronavirus situation. At the same time, more than three in four households think their current packages are sufficient to meet their needs during the crisis (77 per cent for TV and streaming services, 79 per cent for broadband packages and 81 per cent for mobile packages).
When asked about specific actions their service providers should take to help with the Covid-19 situation, ensuring reliable and resilient performance ranked as the top consideration for broadband providers (42 per cent) and mobile providers (40 per cent). Concern around network underperformance is lower but still material; one-quarter are concerned about a reduction in the quality of their broadband service since the start of the crisis.
However, these considerations aren’t translating into higher demand for new forms of connectivity: 11 per cent of households recognise the need to upgrade to full fibre broadband, while only 8 per cent say the crisis has made purchasing 5G mobile more appealing.
Positive sentiment but more work to do
Praveen Shankar, EY’s Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) for the UK & Ireland, says: “We may have not acknowledged enough the vital role telcos, media and tech companies are playing since the start of the Covid-19 situation. From ensuring that the digital infrastructure is keeping the UK connected and the economy moving by enabling consumers to access critical online services – these companies are indispensable.”
He continues: “Consumer sentiments towards TMT providers during the crisis are positive at this stage. But with rapidly changing demands in an increasingly volatile landscape, they need to continuously engage with their customers and respond with both agility and focus.”