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Building back better relationships

30th Sep 2021
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TTEC EMEA recently published a white paper exploring The Next Normal - how to build back better customer relationships after the pandemic. One section of the white paper explored changing customer expectations as the pandemic subsides. In this article I’m drawing on that section of the white paper and adding a few additional ideas. For more details and to download this complete white paper - and see our range of other resources - please click here.

The Next Normal: Customer Expectations

Like company employees, customers have also changed their behaviour and expectations because of the pandemic. This is more clearly obvious in some industries than others, such as the enormous growth in e-commerce, but there are general patterns - people have changed behaviour and brands need to be aware that traditional customer service strategies may need adjustment.

The reasons for consumer change are multiple - people have seen their lives turned upside down by the pandemic. Even if they did not suffer illness, or the illness of a relative, everyone has seen their world changed in multiple ways and this has now affected how consumers interact with brands.

In many cases an emergency response, such as using e-commerce for groceries, will be adopted as normal because the experience has changed the customer’s perception - a customer who never shopped online for food may now want to continue doing this even though the shops are open again.

McKinsey has published research documenting how Covid changed consumer behaviours across eight different spheres of life:

  1. Work: Zoom calls increased 20 times.
  2. Shopping and Consumption: buying trusted brands, buying less frequently, surge towards e-commerce.
  3. Learning: 35%+ of Netflix users are using it for educational content.
  4. Life At Home: home has become a coffee shop, restaurant, and leisure centre.
  5. Communication and Information: dramatic migration to digital communication.
  6. Play and Entertainment: Disney+ launched just before the pandemic. Their growth in the first five months equaled seven years of growth for Netflix.
  7. Travel and Mobility: 80% reduction in international travel.
  8. Health and Wellbeing: greater focus on health and hygiene - US organic produce sales increased 10x.

The McKinsey analysis is a good summary of the various areas where the pandemic affected consumer lives. What is important to note is that many of these areas will now have changed permanently - shopping habits, entertainment, and international travel are all unlikely to revert to how they were in 2019, at least not for some years.

Boeing has suggested that air travel will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024. In areas like travel it remains difficult to predict how customers will behave. There is pent-up demand for travel because people have been prevented from taking holidays and travelling to meet families. However, travel is becoming more complex and expensive because of the need to undertake tests and confirm vaccinations - so those last-minute weekend hops to Europe may now be more difficult.

The areas that McKinsey has summarised are useful pointers to how consumer attitudes have changed though. Homes and the workplace has changed and this is likely to remain permanent as most employers now explore hybrid work solutions. Shopping in person may be restricted for items that really require an experience.

Customer behaviour has dramatically changed during the pandemic and we will never return to the behaviour of 2019. Where executives need to focus now is how these behavioral changes become expectations - what is the next normal for your customers?


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