< Back To Blog

Engage Through Change: Emergency Broadband Benefit

Emergency Broadband Benefit program

On May 26, 2021, Symend hosted a webinar to provide an overview of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and discuss how enterprises can better engage their customers through change. Diana Coho, Consumer Affairs & Outreach Specialist at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), provided an overview of the program, which was followed by a panel discussion with John Stevenson, Sr. Director Financial Services at UScellular™, and Trudi Chalmers, PhD and Director of Behavioral Science at Symend.

Constant change is our new normal and consumer behavior is shifting with the economy, spending habits, expectations and priorities all in flux. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is one of many programs that launched during the pandemic to help customers who are struggling to pay their bills. According to Salesforce research, 51% of customers said they trust a company more because of the way it responded during COVID-19. Enterprises that can adapt to unexpected events will come out ahead, while creating better experiences that keep customers for life.

During this discussion, UScellular™ and Symend shared how to:

  • Generate awareness with qualified customers
  • Empower customers to act on programs and offers
  • Drive brand loyalty by leading with empathy

John has been at UScellular™ for over 11 years and has been in the wireless industry for over 30 years. Trudi has a PhD in behavioral neuroscience and has been researching customer engagement for over 11 years.

 Generate awareness with qualified customers

Barriers to generating awareness and engagement have increased during the pandemic, despite most consumers being more digitally connected. At the start of the pandemic, telecom bills were a top priority for consumers. As the economy reopens and people return to work, consumers are no longer prioritizing their telecom bills. In fact, our research shows that internet bills have dropped from fourth priority to seventh as car insurance, credit card and insurance payments rise to the top. As priorities change, enterprises will need to ensure they are continuously educating their customers on the value of prioritizing their telecom bill, providing flexible payment options and raising awareness of important programs like the Emergency Broadband Benefit to help customers stay connected.

Awareness is essential to driving any kind of behavioral change or action. Without awareness, there is no engagement. Digital fatigue is a primary barrier as email, SMS and video calls become the primary ways customers work, socialize and rest. In fact, 47% of households are seeking downtime from internet enabled devices. While digital fatigue may continue to be a symptom of low engagement, educating consumers is critical to generating awareness. For example, messaging that helps your customers plan or get organized is much more likely to drive action.

Empower customers to act on programs and offers

Did you know that only 26% of qualifying Americans took advantage of the FCC’s Lifeline services? While funding programs are intended to help those who are struggling, the offer may not seem attractive unless it is framed in an empowering way. Empowerment starts with meeting your customers where they are. Awareness is key, but disengagement is also affected by whether the consumer clearly sees a compelling reason to act that doesn’t take away from their sense of self. Consumers don’t want to be seen as at-risk, they want to feel savvy for finding the resources and tools that will help them and their families. Helping your customers recognize that they have made a positive decision reinforces their sense of self, which then empowers them to act.

While this approach is effective for onboarding customers onto the program, a different approach needs to be taken once customers have opted in, and as they transition out of the program. Once customers have opted in, it is important to continue to demonstrate empathy, while educating customers through checklists and reminders so they feel prepared and in control throughout the process. As customers transition out of the program, it is expected that driving urgency will be most effective to ensure customers opt-in to continue receiving services.

Drive brand loyalty by leading with empathy

Business as usual when it comes to bill repayment is no longer acceptable. Uncertainty has been extremely high throughout the pandemic and, from a behavioral science perspective, empathy and self-agency were proven to be most effective for driving digital engagement. Given that isolation and restrictions were outside of everyone’s control, self-agency helped consumers feel like they were taking back a bit of control in their lives.

Flexibility and personalization are key to adapting as customers change. Effective personalization requires an awareness of how the market is affecting your customers, an understanding of your customers’ unique circumstances and insight into patterns in customer behavior. Companies like UScellular™ are focused on providing different pricing and promotions to help customers retain their services while providing maximum value. When it comes to flexibility, payment arrangements can be highly effective, but the customer must be nurtured along to way to ensured outstanding payments remain manageable.

About the Emergency Broadband Benefit

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) is an FCC program that will help households struggling to afford internet service during the pandemic. For eligible households, the program will provide a monthly discount towards broadband service, as well as a one-time discount on a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. The program became available to consumers as of May 12, 2021.

If you are a broadband provider and would like to learn more about the EBB program, please visit the following links for more information:

Symend’s in-depth studies and research revealed that consumers are changing their spending patterns and priorities in dramatic and perhaps unexpected ways. Find out more about the future post-COVID.