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Is My Response to COVID-19 Pandemic Normal and How Do I Translate It into A Business Advantage?
Audra Miller Consulting Manager, Digital & Analytics | July 16, 2020
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Co-authored by: Emma Peng

Response

This COVID-19 pandemic presents an interesting study of human behavior and can be applied to so many elements of transformation and change in behavior. Kubler-Ross’ theory for grief is applicable to human behavior response today (see The Kubler-Ross change curve model). We know that this abruptly sent many of us into a shock and took many of us back to a primal fear of safety and security. In addition, we are searching for the new normal that we will integrate. The change in behavior curve represents people’s natural response to change. We have journeyed along the curve for months, and some have reached a point of varying levels of optimism. Regardless of how it was initially perceived by each of us, it is causing everyone to make decisions about how we respond to the pandemic. As we adjust to this unprecedented time, it is important for individuals and organizations to pay attention to three things:

  1. What we have started doing
  2. What we stopped doing but cannot wait to get back
  3. What we will continue to do after coming out of this pandemic

As we reflect on these, it’s worth noticing how consumers are responding to these questions. The more we take stock in the answers, the greater competitive advantage we will have in coming out of the pandemic.

What We Have Started Doing

Social Distancing: Digital Everything

Everyday life has changed drastically because of the corona virus outbreak. People are physically separated from their friends and families, thanks to social distancing. Consumers are shopping online. Employees are working remotely, and students are taking online courses. Suddenly, human interaction is restricted due to social distancing and there is greater dependency on contact through a computer. The COVID-19 pandemic is re-shaping and accelerating digital transformation.

E-commerce is gaining customers and market share. Additionally, the demand for video conferencing applications has increased for business and personal use. According to a report from app Annie, there were 62 million downloads a week in March 2020. Meanwhile, social networking video apps have seen phenomenal growth as well.

App Annie reports 62 million weekly downloads in March 2020. Social networking video apps are growing well too.

Personal Hygiene: Preoccupation with Cleanliness

People are improving their personal hygiene to protect against infection and prevent additional cases. Hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and sprays have become the most popular products. People are also taking caution in public spaces by wearing face masks and gloves for protection.

Self-Isolation: Different Lifestyle

Everyone is being told to stay at home. But, being home 24/7 drives people to make their apartment more comfortable, smarter, and fun. According to a global survey by McKinsey & Company, most consumers expect to spend less time working and more time consuming entertainment, such as digital and video content, news, and social media. This is an important step of Kubler-Ross’ theory of frustration and depression and into experimenting and integrating a human need for fun.

What We Stopped and Can’t Wait to Get Back to

Dr. Seppala of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education wrote, “Social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.” After practicing social distancing and self-isolation, people miss simple social interactions. They cannot wait to hug friends and families or even spark up a conversation with a friendly stranger.

Not everyone is equipped with the right technology and have a nice environment to dwell in while working remotely. There could be lots of distractions and they cannot wait to go back to the old daily routine when there were built in breaks or distractions.  

What We Will Continue

Right now, it is very unclear how long COVID-19 will impact us. What we know is, the longer the impact, the more human behavior and attitudes will shift. Understanding where our customers are on the change curve is critical for us to adjust the business strategy. After going through denial, frustration, and depression, people will start searching for a way to stabilize.

Coronavirus' impact is redefining new customer experience expectations. Research is telling us customers prefer touchless in-store shopping. This trend is likely to continue until we find a vaccine and will more than likely be the new norm.

Basic personal hygiene practices have been emphasized. Cleanliness of the grocery store, the hotel room, and the seat on airplane will become a crucial factor influencing consumer spending decisions. 

This COVID-19 outbreak has affected our way of working, learning, communicating, and consuming. For businesses, it makes the case for the return on investment in digital transformation. Organizations who have not fully adopted digital are now having to race to solutions.

What Customers Expect

Businesses that lived and worked by the credo of “focus on the customer” and demonstrated an understanding of customer needs over profitability will have an opportunity to further that relationship with new, meaningful goods, and services. For example, the insurance providers are publicizing discounts on auto insurance premiums. The telecommunications and cable industry are offering grace periods and will not disconnect residential or small business’ service due to financial hardship during this time. It is proven that when a person receives a gift, they generally want to give something back. For those who show up as good corporate citizens and give the gift of stability to their customers, they can bank on that appreciation coming back in the form of loyalty.

Reactive versus proactive businesses will spend more time and money trying to attract lost costumers. The Coronavirus and Business eBook by Harvard Business Review shares a great reminder: “A crisis doesn’t imply immunity from performance management, and sooner or later markets will judge which companies managed the challenge most effectively.” Take some time to think about whether or not your organization has looked at ways to meet customer needs through financial relief. Are you communicating solutions, is your customer service team starting or ending calls with a sentiment about “stay safe and healthy.” If you have not taken deliberate actions to listen and provide solutions for customers, you will truly miss out on an opportunity to be a valued business or brand.

What Organizations Can Do

Investment companies have created customer experience driven products that are  being tested right now. The technologies included IoT, digital and analytics, cloud, and security. From these investments, we gain insights on how quickly we can shift to meet customers’ needs. Organizations that have already adjusted their business models are better positioned to respond to constantly changing COVID19 related demands.

We must uncover customer preferences. What we know is the last component on the Kubler-Ross change curve is integration. When companies meet the customer’s need to integrate, there will be demand. Finding the intersect is key to increasing the revenue curve once the virus curve flattens!