The COVID Hangover and Customer Expectations

Elements of Returning to “Normal” that Will Affect Customers and Businesses

A new year, nearly 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and one thing we have all learned is that continual change and a fast pace is the world we live in.

As summer approached, we were all excited at the thought of returning to family, friends, travel, celebrations, restaurants, and more. Vaccines were widely available, mask mandates were lifting and it once again felt safe – or safer – to re-join the world.

What most consumers didn’t think about were the remaining disruptions to the supply chain that are still causing products to either be in short supply or much more expensive. Planning to build a new deck this year? Expect to pay at least 4 times what you would have last year. Craving your favorite Starbucks beverage? You may be surprised to see that a few important components are missing.

The shortage is also incredibly pertinent when it comes to labor. Who is working in the restaurants and salons? The gyms and the hotels? All of these factors leave many questions, the biggest of which may be: how long will consumers remain patient and understanding?

 

The Expectations Consumers Have

Much has been talked about regarding the expectations that consumers are going to have as we move forward and return to the activities and brands that once played significant roles in our daily lives. Eating out now feels much more special; a trip is not just a chance to get away and see new places, but an opportunity to heal the stresses that have plagued us these past months. Will it be ok if the waiter is juggling twice as many tables as they should be? What if the service at the hotel isn’t quite up to par? Perhaps it takes longer for your bags to arrive in your room or there is a longer wait time to check in.

As a brand how do you understand what the customer’s expectations are and how to meet them under the current constraints? What is an acceptable compromise if needed?

 

Be Creative with Engaging Consumers

Think about creating new experiences that excite and delight the customer and also that don’t lean heavily on resources that may be scarce, expensive, or non-existent. Recall the creativity many restaurants in cold weather states exhibited during this past winter to attract clientele while indoor dining rooms were closed. The enclosed, outdoor domes that many restaurants implemented created a one-of-a-kind experience that many customers sought, regardless of the pandemic situation. This type of creativity and invention served the restaurants well and will most likely continue to benefit these businesses in post-pandemic life.

As we return to normal and anticipate consumer expectations, co-creation with consumers is a great place to start to keep them brand loyal and engaged. Brands should involve consumers in creating solutions and uncovering aspects of the relationship that build upon emotions likely to drive loyalty. Not only can this be a fast source of inspiration, but also can deepen the emotional connection with brand followers.

 

What Businesses Should Carry into the Future

Many consumers became innovation experts over the past 18 months as they had to creatively problem solve with the situation they were handed. As we hope to return to some sense of normalcy, brands should consider greater involvement of consumers, leveraging this new skill to keep the creative momentum going. Doing so will keep consumers happy, allow brands to stay ahead of the curve, and continue to find success through innovation and differentiation. We live in a world that moves more quickly than ever before. Businesses that are adaptable, that can understand their consumers’ needs in real time, and that can implement foresight and anticipation for the future will prosper.

 


Written by Lisa Marie Fortier, SVP at ENGINE Insights

 

 

 

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