A new normal is a necessary result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, yet, it is understandable, that some of us are persistently longing for the "Old" way of being and can't resist the urge to reference going back to normal. I think that we can agree that it is definitely not business as usual since many companies are faced with many uncertainties and crises at this time that will affect employees, income, and profits for months and years to come.
What I am going to say next may be a radical concept to some, but to me, it is inevitable. There may be no going back; there is only going forward. Instead of ruminating in the hope of a future much similar to our past, pre-January 2020, we should embrace social distancing, contracting of business operations and functions, and shelter in place regulations as a part of our social dispensation for the next 48 months. It is an opportunity to create new ways of being, doing business, interacting, and remaining relevant. I challenge you to imagine a new way ahead:
Don't Communicate, CONNECT.
In this age of social distancing, the fact that we can communicate more than we have ever done in history consoles us. Where companies can differentiate is in generating human, personalized connections that have meaning for the receiver. The prevalence of text, video conferencing, and other digital methods allow us this luxury, more so than our last battle with a pandemic, post World War 1. This ability will ultimately level the playing field in terms of the 'Information Sent-Information Received' construct.
We are currently raving goodbye to the days of planned, commercialized, and generic messaging for all customers and saying hello to AI systems, which individualize and build an intuitive experience into the engagement with the customer.
Being able to customize customer interactions online through personalized home pages that display products, services and articles based on customer purchasing history, interests, and habits is already being done at the level of Amazon.com and google. I am proposing that this formula be brought closer to home at the level of the local businesses in a more authentic way to achieve connection and loyalty. You do not need complicated or expensive software to get it done. It can be realized in supermarkets as effortlessly as customers establish patterns, the company can create scheduled purchasing options for frequent shoppers with delivery as an option, whether monthly, weekly, or quarterly.
Don't innovate; EVOLVE...
Don’t innovate just for the sake of it, innovate with purpose by evolving. To evolve is inherently transitive, while also connotating a constant state of being. There is no pause in innovation but instead a natural momentum to keep transforming to adapt to the changes in the environment. While this word innovation has been tossed about in the business world for years, some companies are not even sure of the meaning of the term. Are you innovative, if your competitors are applying the same technology, at a rate and on a scale faster than your business can?
A company that decides to wait for things to return to 'normal' will be left behind. You must assess which changes your company needs to make, not only to survive but to thrive in the new dispensation going forward. Some of the changes that we will have to make as coping mechanisms in the pandemic may remain with us well into the future.
Since more of your customers will be spending more time at home, you may need to invest in electronic or physical delivery systems. Your customer service may need to move entirely online and your frontline staff may need to be retrained to data entry and back end order processing.
Streamline and simplify!
Streamline your business to create greater efficiencies for yourself and your customers. It may require your business to discontinue certain products and introduce new ones; or hire new staff with particular skills to support new service offerings or change the process for customers to access products or services by shortening steps and utilizing technology.
Financial institutions may need to consider loan applications that are processed entirely online, with electronic submission of supporting documents. This format may also be applicable for government agencies and other data collecting organizations.
Whatever the course of action, you need to take the time to envision alternative modes of doing business to achieve maximum profitability to maintain business relevance.
People may characterize 2020 as uncertain times. I challenge you to consider that there was never any certainty at any time. However, the recent crisis is a source of new challenges for businesses to overcome with ingenuity and some out of the box thinking.
Kimalene Regis is a Marketing Strategist and Project Manager with over 15 years in the field. She takes pride in her ability to align companies’ vision and goals with strategies that produce results in the areas of marketing, communications, public relations, project management, and customer service interventions.