The last few weeks have brought about unprecedented change. In what felt the blink of an eye, a virus brought businesses and governments across the world to a complete standstill. Everything has changed and more is still to come.
While most businesses and organizations are just trying to figure out how to adapt to the immediate ramifications of a shutdown or coordinating a remote workforce, we must also think about the permanent impact on commerce and the consumer psyche. Brands that are able to rise to the occasion amid the world’s “new normal” will thrive in the years to come.
The big question, then, is what will this new normal look like? I believe that we can already see the green shoots of some aspects of CX which will be permanently altered, even after we’re on the other side of the Covid 19 global health pandemic.
The first and most obvious, is a lasting shift in activity from the physical to the online world. Yes, when the lockdowns are finished, people will return to the shops and malls, but many will have become accustomed to the convenience of shopping and managing their needs online. Some of those activities will have been permanently shifted into the online world. Remote working will probably remain a feature for many businesses, and I suspect we may also see a deeper integration of remote learning into traditional modes of education. Brands should start thinking now about how they update their operations to meet these changing consumer needs.
Just as the 2018 Cape Town water crisis forever changed the way that Capetonians think about their personal water usage, the Coronavirus global health pandemic has, and will, bring about new things consumers can never “unsee”. Hand hygiene and a heightened awareness of personal space are two obvious examples, but there will be others. Organizations should stay keenly attuned to changes in the customer attitudes and respond with proper policies, training, and communication.
Some have drawn parallels between this health crisis and wartime. Regardless of whether or not you support that comparison, we can all agree that outbreak of Covid 19 has rallied people around a common cause. It also placed a spotlight on morality, something that probably won’t be quick to fade. Brands like the UK’s Pret a Manger restaurant chain that responded swiftly and decisively by shifting to takeaway only and offering free or discounted items for to NHS workers, will retain a halo effect. And after this time has passed, consumers will continue to scrutinize how organizations live their brand promise and their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments. In the future, brands will not be able to rely solely on charity, campaign-based corporate social responsibility and the resulting PR opportunities, but will likely need to think about how they integrate ESG policies into ways of doing business.
At the moment, lockdowns are still being enacted and things are fluid, but in the coming weeks, as CX and business leaders have the opportunity to reflect on how to permanently adjust to the new normal, they would be wise to plan for these factors, or risk falling out of favor with consumers.
Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional and one of the top experts in customer experience management. To find out more about how Julia can help your business achieve its CX goals, check out her customer experience advisory consulting services (including CX strategy, voice of customer and culture change) or get in touch via email.