With the COVID-19 pandemic came many challenges and issues, some we’ve dealt with, and some will be ongoing. However, it’s human’s resilience and kindness that has shined through these interesting times.
Looking around, you can see many signs of how people have been adapting hugely to the drastic changes. It’s also been on display during my last round of mystery shopping, an effective way to see businesses and stores operate in their natural element from a customer’s perspective.
One significant observation is that people and businesses are now showing more kindness towards each other.
And it may be due to the time we’ve all spent under lockdown. People seem more eager to interact positively with their friends, family, team members and customers.
A much welcome change!
For instance, a few stores I visited have clearly made it their priority to greet each customer with genuine warmth and eagerness. Their teams really sought to understand and meet each customer’s needs with authenticity. They make their patrons feel essential – after all, we now know how important we are as consumers thanks to the many industry-related news stories.
Another positive change that we should welcome with open arms is more accurate pricing of goods and services for your average Kiwi. We all know that the cost of living in New Zealand is known to be relatively high. Since many businesses tend to hike up prices for tourists who are more able and willing to pay extravagant fees.
Today, many of us can now enjoy more reasonable prices in areas we didn’t think we could before.
Evidently, these adaptive businesses already had a focus or have started the overall shift towards focusing on their customers. During the lockdown, some of these leaders have also taken the time to train their team, or at least refresh them in consumer-friendly practices.
With these strategies, businesses have gladly reported that they are doing well, despite the global economic crisis that COVID19 has created. In some cases, their customer satisfaction has skyrocketed, with employees and staff much happier with their jobs, resulting in higher than expected returns.
Company-centric practices simply aren’t as effective.
Now that we have looked at the excellent examples of what many shrewd organisations have been doing during this crisis let’s now look at those who seemed to have failed to rise to the occasion.
On my travels, many businesses who are reportedly falling short would seem to believe they don’t need to be more friendly with their customers than before. They also don’t seem to have considered reappraising their pricing model, even during their post-lockdown sales and promotions.
When approached, these companies, whose engagement practices didn’t seem as sharp, were asked about their post-lockdown financial performance. Unsurprisingly, each one stated they were doing much worse than their competitors.
Putting the customer first works.
As consumers, we have constantly been told by the media in the last few months that we are vital for companies and businesses to survive during these challenging times.
So naturally, our expectations are high. We believe that we should be treated well like we’re of utmost importance to the future of companies (and rightfully so).
With this in mind, you can understand the disappointment when we’re met with poor customer experience, service and support.
Do organisations really expect customers to support a business that doesn’t even treat us like we’re essential?
Let me drive home the point further with an example of poor customer experience.
In New Zealand, we have a certain large retailer where everyone knows they can find a bargain.
Since the entire country (and the world) was on the brink of an economic crunch, the New Zealand government provided them with wage subsidies to help overcome any challenges* (a minimum 20% drop YoY to qualify) that they may have experienced.
But good news! They were delighted to announce that they’ve fared better than expected, and so would have to repay the wage subsidy…
Yet, to everyone’s surprise, on the same day, they also reported that they were laying off 1000 employees. What was the reason given? COVID19, of course!
The news was met with objection by not only the ex-employees but also the general public, and of course the “good-news” hungry media.
I would love to know what this did to their approval rating in the weeks after, but I don’t imagine it was good for it. Since at least 20 people stated to me in conversation that they will be making a switch to K-Mart from now on.
From this, it’s not hard to see that this organisation will probably see a significant reduction in both its customer base and future revenue.
You may be asking, why do New Zealanders disapprove of this so much? I mean, people get laid off regularly all over the world, right?
Here is the issue.
In New Zealand, we have a strong sense of community and unity due to our small population size. And this has only increased thanks to the lockdown. We have the general idea that during the crisis, we all have to look out for each other. Since, this team of 5 million+ has each other’s backs. With this united front, we can overcome this global crisis together.
Yet, when a large company lays off their employees, and blames it on the crisis, even though they’ve probably been hiring for change management consultants since the second half of 2019, citizens do not feel the support is mutual. Instead, discontent is sown.
Try not to be like this.
Try to adopt kindness into your business model, bestowing it to your team, your customers and the wider community.
Coming out of this pandemic, many consumers will be expecting this compassion revolution and the movement towards consumer-centric practices. After all, a new expectation of kindness is being created by the kinder, team-playing companies who seem to be doing better in weathering this storm.
As business leaders, it would be smart to start interjecting this thinking into all your actions, both professional and personal.
Businesses expecting to be here for the long haul have to start hopping on the kindness train and delivering excellent human experiences.
Because it doesn’t matter how great your products and services are if you don’t treat all stakeholders with the level of service and care that we’re all starting to enjoy elsewhere.