Publication - Research and analysis

Social Security client and experience panels research: effects of the coronavirus pandemic on communication preferences – visual summary

Published: 23 Aug 2021
Social Security Directorate
Part of:
Coronavirus in Scotland

A summary of findings from a research project with client and experience panel members about communication preferences.

Social Security client and experience panels research: effects of the coronavirus pandemic on communication preferences – visual summary
Views on different methods for getting in touch

Views on different methods for getting in touch


Many said that the telephone gave callers the chance to fully explain their circumstances.

Some also said that phone calls were a good way to get quick answers or make contact for the first time.

“If urgent, [I] might need a telephone number to get in touch with someone that day.” (interview participant)

“Still prefer phone calls. Phone calls are [my] first option. I like that someone would immediately answer my enquiries.” (interview participant)

During the pandemic, some respondents said that their preferences had changed to include more phone calls as they were able to meet fewer people in person.

Some said that they had experienced long waiting times on calls to organisations during the pandemic. Some said they would now consider different ways of getting in touch.


Panel members said letters were helpful as they created a record of all information sent and received. Some said it was easier to explain personal circumstances in detail, or include other documents, on paper forms or via letter.

“The kind of general communication…information giving I think I would continue like to have a hard copy like a letter, sometimes people need to see it.” (interview participant)

Some panel members said that delays in Royal Mail’s service during the pandemic had caused problems.

“Due to the pandemic and restrictions, the postal service is no longer reliable enough to have things done by post.” (survey respondent)

One respondent said that Social Security Scotland should consider the environmental impact of sending letters.

Text messages

Panel members said text messages were a helpful way to receive updates and reminders.

“Text messages are always good, you get reminder text messages from different places, that’s really handy!” (interview participant)

Two interview participants said they had heard a lot about text message scams. So they felt wary of communicating in this way.

“At the moment there are so many scams…to be honest, if I get a text message now I would be very wary, even emails now I am wary because I just don’t know where they’re coming from.” (interview participant)

Online forms

Feedback said online forms could be quicker to complete and more accessible than paper forms.

“Then there’s no having to fill it with my terrible handwriting because of my eyesight. Then there’s also getting someone to go out and post it for you. [Online] you can make it the font the size you want on the’s sent direct and cuts out the chance of it going missing in the post.” (interview participant)

There were also suggestions for other types of online communication.

Panel members said it should be possible to get in touch via email.

Participants liked email because it provided a record of interactions.

Some said email lets them keep up-to-date with important information.

Some said email gave them space to explain personal circumstances or questions.

“My preferred contact method would be by email because then I have a record of what had been discussed / decided. Phone conversations are not much use to anyone with short attention spans or poor memory, which is why a printed record is best for them.” (survey respondent)

There were also suggestions for a Social Security Scotland app and a platform to monitor the progress of applications.

Web chat

Panel members said web chat could be a good way to get quick answers and find out more detailed information.

Some participants said that web chat was a good option, as long as clients received personalised replies and not pre-programmed responses.

“Same with urgent [situations], web chat might be ok sometimes if I could be sure who I was talking to and it wasn't either a scripted bot or someone talking to 5 people at once.” (survey respondent)

One interview participant said the Social Security Scotland web chat service was helpful and convenient. They were pleased with the quick response. A survey participant who had used the service said they hoped it would remain an option after the pandemic.

“I hope you keep the web chat in the future as it's so useful.” (survey respondent)

“Having that online chat was preferred, it was a really quick in giving me an answer and I wasn’t waiting for ages.” (interview participant)

Social media

Very few respondents said social media would be their preferred way to get in touch with Social Security Scotland.

Two interview participants said that social media could be a helpful way for Social Security Scotland to provide information.

“If Social Security Scotland had specific Facebook or Instagram groups, they can share their achievements and support on this social media. They can alert people to new services. It would re-assure people in difficult situations.” (interview participant with experience of Best Start Grant/Foods and Carer’s Allowance Supplement)