Don’t Go Changing: Why Brands Must Not Revert to Old Behaviours Post COVID-19

Customer Experience

With a sem­blance of nor­mal­i­ty return­ing to many Euro­pean coun­tries as COVID-19 lock­down restric­tions ease, it’s per­haps a per­ti­nent moment to look back on how busi­ness­es have react­ed and adapt­ed to these dif­fi­cult times, and which lessons we can take into the future.

The most encour­ag­ing out­come from this for­mi­da­ble peri­od is that organ­i­sa­tions have start­ed treat­ing cus­tomers like real-life human beings – peo­ple with their own emo­tions, chal­lenges, and needs. Brands are no longer sole­ly focus­ing on prof­it mar­gins, but the health of their employ­ees and the unique con­cerns of their customers.

I urge those brands that have tak­en pos­i­tive steps towards estab­lish­ing more human and authen­tic rela­tion­ships not to revert to old ways of think­ing – to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to inspire a per­ma­nent step-change in how they talk to their customers.

So, what has changed?

For many brands, the unique chal­lenges pre­sent­ed by the pan­dem­ic have prompt­ed whole­sale changes and sub­tle shifts in their approach­es to peo­ple, process, and tech­nol­o­gy. And for many, it’s been a long over­due wake-up call.

For years, we’ve been urg­ing brands to focus on the human ele­ment of their cus­tomer rela­tion­ships, on fos­ter­ing a sense of com­mu­ni­ty that sup­ports and inspires.

When the lock­down was first announced, many small­er busi­ness­es imme­di­ate­ly feared the worse. And, while some SMEs may not recov­er, the surge of pub­lic sup­port for local busi­ness­es, from butch­ers to take­aways, and pubs to green­gro­cers, means that many will emerge from lock­down in a posi­tion to not only sur­vive the com­ing months and years, but thrive.

New fea­tures released by Face­book and Insta­gram that make it eas­i­er for the pub­lic to dis­play their sup­port for local brands have helped, but it’s the sense of the wider com­mu­ni­ty, of peo­ple want­i­ng to active­ly lend aid that has shone through.

This sense of com­mu­ni­ty isn’t just lim­it­ed to SMEs either, and there are oth­er, more sub­tle steps that big brands have tak­en over the past few months. This has ranged from some­thing as sim­ple as ton­ing down poten­tial­ly over­bear­ing sales chat, to scal­ing back mar­ket­ing mes­sages so brands can be sure they’re talk­ing to the right peo­ple in exact­ly the right place, and on time.

Key take­aways:

  • Retail cul­ture starts with local shops that are fam­i­ly-owned and pro­vide a per­son­al touch.
  • Remem­ber how you – as a human and con­sumer – want to be treat­ed, and mir­ror this with how you exe­cute your brand purpose.

And how has this affect­ed cus­tomer expectations?

Peo­ple now expect to be com­mu­ni­cat­ed to as exact­ly that, peo­ple. The val­ue that con­sumers place in hon­esty and trans­paren­cy has increased expo­nen­tial­ly. After all, who are cus­tomers more like­ly to turn to in the com­ing months, the brand who treat­ed them with respect, or the com­peti­tor that con­tin­ued to try to sell, sell, sell?

If the pan­dem­ic has taught us any­thing, it’s that peo­ple admire brands that take a proac­tive, hon­est, and deci­sive stance, built on serv­ing the needs and wants of the customer.

For exam­ple, when my local hard­ware store shut its doors to the pub­lic dur­ing lock­down, it remained open, with employ­ees lit­er­al­ly walk­ing down the aisles tak­ing orders on the phone from customers.

Now, will I expect that exact same ser­vice when I can vis­it the store myself? No – but as a con­sumer, I will expect the same per­son­al and human approach to the way they do busi­ness, whether that’s through how they talk to me online (via social or email), or in-store.

Key take­aways:

  • Price is impor­tant, but shop­ping at local stores isn’t exceed­ing­ly more expen­sive than national/global chains. Local shops pro­vide a per­son­al touch and, often, a high­er qual­i­ty prod­uct or service.
  • Con­sumers want vari­ety from their high street and city cen­tres. Who wants to see the same retail­ers dom­i­nat­ing every place they visit?
  • Glob­al retail­ers and con­sumer brands should take an active role in sup­port­ing local busi­ness­es through part­ner­ships that source prod­ucts local­ly (e.g. bak­eries, butch­ers, hard­ware stories).

This plea doesn’t just relate to retail though. Encour­ag­ing­ly, brands of all shapes and sizes have re-eval­u­at­ed how they approach their cus­tomers, putting aside mon­e­tary gains in favour of lend­ing aid and sup­port to the public.

Whether it’s through dona­tions to hos­pi­tals, trans­form­ing fac­to­ries into PPC pro­duc­tion lines, or research teams band­ing togeth­er with a com­mon pur­pose; nev­er before have we wit­nessed such an out­pour­ing of altru­ism, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and com­mu­ni­ty in the busi­ness world – and long may it continue.

As the sit­u­a­tion with COVID-19 quick­ly unfolds, Adobe is com­mit­ted to giv­ing you the sup­port and resources to nav­i­gate this chal­leng­ing time – learn more.

Customer Experience
Axel G. Heyenga

Posted on 07-08-2020

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