16 July 2020
Life has changed, and business has changed with it. There’s a flurry of debate around whether the effects of the COVID-19 will really lead to a ‘new normal’, or if this is a blip on the radar and we’ll return to how things were in an instant.
It’s difficult to see how things will just snap back to exactly how they were. Companies that were sitting on the fence about the need for digital transformation have had their hands forced overnight. Those who were normally office-bound have learned how to work remotely. The way customers physically interact has permanently shifted. Who would have thought branch hygiene would be an issue for banks? Many universities are keeping classes online through the end 2020. Some through 2021. The value of an expensive college experience is under scrutiny.
Companies cannot afford to make quick fix changes and hope for the best. If businesses fail to properly adapt and make only short-term shifts as a compromise, they will fail before we even see what the ‘new normal’ looks like.
And with that in mind, it’s unlikely those that do successfully innovate will want to move back to the old ways of working.
To keep up with these changes and shifting customer expectations, the KPIs and scorecard that defines success needs to move accordingly.
The degree to which your brand helps reduce customer anxiety is highly predictive of whether customers will advocate for you. During a time of heightened stress this is crucial. How do I get hold of my ISP when my internet connection is down? How easy is it to get a delivery slot for my food shop? If my phone breaks, how long will I be without it?
Removing barriers to provide a streamlined experience will drive recommendations, especially in personal, word of mouth exchanges.
Apple provide a good example of reducing customer anxieties. They allow AppleCare customers to request a replacement device when their own is broken. The customer receives the new device with a box and ready to use returns label to send their old, defective device back. There’s minimal friction, no time spent without the product. No need even to even to leave the house.
We’ve entered a time of increased transparency. Businesses which fail to live up to their claimed values of inclusivity, fair treatment and caring about the customer are held to account. The barrier between business culture and customer has fallen.
Traditionally, clever marketing allowed brands to put perception before behaviour. Now everyone has a story of how brand X behaves, whether from someone in their social circle or a viral post.
It’s now much harder to hide behind the veneer of messaging. Consumers are judging brands on how they contribute to the wider community and how they treat their customers and staff.
Customer stories have always been a big part of the marketing process. We see these particularly in B2B, where large enterprise clients want confidence that a supplier has solved their problem before. We produce many of them every year, storytelling in word, video or graphic forms.
However, more recently our research tells us the stories B2B buyers are finding most important are those that explain how a brand has stepped up during the recent crisis.
This might be because they think it evidences a business with a social conscience. Or it might, slightly less altruistically, simply highlight that the supplier is agile and can respond quickly to new challenges.
B2B businesses that can make their technology part of that story – part of the solution – building services which help address the many challenges arising from COVID-19, demonstrate both their values and their technology capabilities.
In this new environment we must re-evaluate what measurements still matter? Whether things will go back to normal is debatable, but the changes we’re seeing speak more of innovation than temporary fixes.
If the points discussed strike a chord get in touch. We’d love to share ideas and experiences over a coffee – virtually of course.