Creating the “New Normal”

Redefine the customer experience after COVID-19

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

The coronavirus pandemic has led to many extraordinary world-changing events including forcing companies to reinvent their operations, structures, and services as fast as possible. Transformations activities once planned over time were made true in just a few days.

After the transition phase we are now living, the big challenge will be finding a new way to operate in a completely different context. Adopting smart working on large scale was only the first step of a big shift, the next goal will be creating a “new normal” and finding a way to live better experiences beyond the crisis.

Many companies already shifted their business from products to experiences. The transition moved entire businesses to redefine operations and market approach. The coronavirus crisis forced an acceleration to this transition where companies need to re-image their established patterns and find new solutions.

During lockdown some companies showed how innovation could fight the status quo, getting the maximum value from technologies and redefine operations. Some important universities, after many years of discussion and poor results, shifted their entire program online, some of them moved 100% of their courses online in just one week. The United Kingdom’s National Health Services orchestrated an immediate shift on telemedicine in less than 15 days. These examples show that overnight digital transformation is possible.

The COVID-19 crisis has also increased the value of data, South Korea Corona 100m apphelped people notice if they were approaching anyone infected by using personal data and GPS technology proving to be a powerful tool to avoid other infections. More than ever, today data is a secret weapon, companies have to accelerate the process of capture data, extract insights, and define predictive models.

How to adapt customer experience during changing time

Remote Healthcare — Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

According to McKinsey companies have to adapt themselves focusing on three main pillars: increase care and connections, re-invent their process and, most importantly, change often and rapidly.

Care and connection

Numerous studies showed that people tend to buy products from brands expressing strong values. Customers prefer those brands that are committed in social responsibility. Brands must express interest in all those who are part of the company. Caring should involve not only customers and employees but should be extended to their community:

  • customer care is about people’s needs and goals, companies have to listen and constantly understand customer evolution. Simple surveys are not enough, companies must learn to extract the insights from every step of product development, from early prototypes to well-established products;
  • employees care is about personal growth. Companies should support employees in becoming the better version of themself by guiding and encouraging them towards mastering the knowledge and the skills they already love;
  • community care is about promoting sustainable and social actions. It’s a concept that involves not only the environment but also how people interact, focusing on inclusivity. Online platforms are the best place to give shape to a community and allow people to share information and collaborate. A good example is Virti, an online training center that helps health workers to stay up to date. This program has been deployed to 14,000 US healthcare professionals.

Redefine processes

In Italy e-commerce sales have increased by 81% in a single week. 

A single week of COVID-19 has pushed for more digitization than it has done in so many years.

The rapid growth of e-commerce orders has created a bottleneck in the supply chain, which exemplifies that digitization is not enough if there isn’t a rethinking of how each operation is managed. The delivery business has to be re-invented creating new services with touch-free operations like drive-through shopping experiences or cashless payments.

Service design could play an important role in the future by helping companies to have a clear view of all their operations, identify their service pain points and consequently improve the entire customer journey.

Companies need to move quickly if they want to reinvent themselves and create new products that are better suited to the emergency, but most are blocked by laws and regulations.

We had several examples during the crisis: Elon Musk and his Tesla were able to produce many fans but the speed of operations was interrupted by paperwork. While Italy needed thousands of masks that were already available these were stuck at customs because of papers. Blockchain technology can be the answer to reducing time.

Build adapting capabilities

In fast-changing times, companies must be agile, they should avoid surveys and give priority to fast interaction by getting insights from real users. Above all, they have to be able to create, test and deliver fast MVP (minimum viable products). According to the last HBR issue agile leaders are focused on rapid feedback loops instead of making long term predictions

The leadership teams have to create a system where agile can be applied. Agile leadership is different from an agile operation team. The agile team has to be focused on delivery while leaders have to build and manage a system, create an agile enterprise.

In the age of connection where technology is powering everything, every company has to develop new skills, most importantly they need to excel in the digital business. Unfortunately, agile leaders will be affected by a shortage of talents, many companies will be forced to re-skill people providing internal programs or use e-learning.

Stop promoting start building

Customer Experience has dramatically changed. The difference between winners and followers will be on execution.

“Rather than predict the unpredictable, agile leaders build rapid feedback loops” Darrell K. Rigby — HBR

Too many companies are still focused on old-time patterns, too many managers lose their time creating long term strategy based on unpredictable contests, most of them tend to promote and advertise old products instead of disrupting established patters.

More than ever today we need leaders able to change, leaders who are smart enough to build new things instead of selling old products with fake selling propositions, leaders can be promoters of disruption and now it’s the right time to start building the future.

Disrupting is imperative in changing time. Disrupting means rethink assumptions, identify new opportunities and create a better future.