Time to review what users need in a post-pandemic world
08 Dec 2021
Stewart Pleace, our Head of Innovation Management here at Hymans, discusses how the pandemic has changed his view on what customers really need.
Wow. I thought I liked people, I really did. People have played an important part in my life, except possibly, during my emo-goth stage in my mid-teens when I needed absolutely no-one(!) But for the most part I liked people, in some cases even loved them.
But now? Now I’m not so sure. Since the pandemic, I spend a lot more time observing human nature and trying to understand it. I find myself questioning: “Why aren’t you wearing a mask?”, “Why isn’t your mask covering your nose?”, “Have you sanitised?” So many questions. And to be brutally honest, questions that are cynical in nature. I have higher ideals and want everyone to share those - for my safety, their safety, and the safety of the people I love.
Trying to understand what customers need after this pandemic isn’t easy but I’d like to share some observations that may help.
Now I know other people feel the same way as me. Take ordering a product online for example. The product is manufactured by a series of people (and machines), packaged by people, moved around by people, and delivered by people. Unconsciously, or possibly consciously, you now think about how hygienic the product is, and the people that are involved in this process. You may wipe down the packaging and product on receipt, and then wash and sanitise your hands. These are likely all things you didn’t consider in the slightest before (I won’t cover sustainability and climate-friendliness which you may also be thinking about here).
However, we are ordering more online and expect other services to be digitised, and in our minds, we think this is far safer than leaving the house and heading to the shops or meeting people. Certainly, by buying online it reduces our cognitive overload and stress of the questions in our head that I mentioned earlier. And this move to more online shopping has impacted sellers, resellers, supply chains, logistics and timescales.
But people’s expectations of convenient and speedy delivery haven’t changed and for businesses this move to online has almost immediately created a big steaming bundle of issues to deal with.
So, I have a few suggestions:
- Forget what you know about user/customer expectations. Expectations have changed overnight. You may think you have a good understanding of your customer base, their needs and expectations. But things have changed. Go out and speak to your customers again, understand how they feel now, how their needs have changed. What can you do now to make their lives easier, safer?
- Honesty is the best policy. This pandemic has forced people to change the way they do things. People assume businesses have similarly adapted and are continuing to deliver as before. But let’s be honest, not all businesses were prepared for this. Existing online retailers already had infrastructure in place but for service delivery companies, digital transformation takes years.
Most large businesses have been and continue to go through digital transformation. It’s best not to fudge excuses but be honest with customers. It’s ok to say the business has had to re-engineer and part of this is providing new working conditions and environments for staff which can lead to delays or services not being optimised yet.
Most people are also employees who are also adapting to new working environments, so they should understand. We’re all in this together.
- Prepare for the way it used to be, but not the way it used to be. We will come out of this pandemic, and we’ve already seen a lot of sectors trying to return to normal. But it’s not going to be the old normal. The light is dawning that this could happen again - and people are trying to return to ways that seemed normal but also have one foot in the future. This is very hard to design for but certainly marrying up what you already know about your customers, with the added insight of understanding their current needs, gives you a good way forward.
There’s so much to cover with this topic and I’m just scratching the surface. I hope some of this resonates and is helpful.