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Posted by Simon Taylor - 19 June, 2020

A huge side effect of Coronavirus is the rampant debate about whether changes in customer behaviours will be permanent.

Every day in industry press, and on Zoom calls everywhere, eager opinions are expressed, either denying or championing potential changes in customer behaviour. Everyone has a view on what the customer thinks, or is going to do next. But how solid is the evidence behind that view?

Human nature means these views are often driven by self-interest and personal circumstances. People tend to talk up the result they are really hoping for, and deny the one they are hoping to avoid, simply not wishing to investigate the reality that may be quietly happening, for fear of the personal implications. And the sensationalism that abounds gives them an easy opportunity to disagree.
Who remembers the paperless office? The death of email? No-one uses facebook anymore? All sensational extremes, that you can agree or disagree with, because they've never reached a binary outcome. But they are all having evolutionary impact.
Change is rarely binary within the time of a debate. It happens quietly in the background, and customers vote with their feet (or fingertips now)! And those businesses that were happy to deny the revolution, woke up one day to find evolution had taken their customers into the arms of their competitors.
This week I received an excellent short article written by a friend and associate, Rowan Jackson: ex Royal Marine, Business Learning & Development Director, Change Consultant, and now Co-Founder and Chairman of Promising Outcomes. I think it points perfectly to the need to avoid sensational debate, and find answers to the big questions from customers themselves:
Needs may not have changed – expectations have, dramatically.
For the last few years, the NHS has been trying to get GPs to do online patient consultations without much success. Today in the COVID-19 time more than 80% of GPs patient consultations are online. GPs had little alternative. As we now know that GPs can do this, we now expect it. The need to see a doctor has not changed, the expectation of how it is done has changed. Because we now know we can be seen in this way, we will expect it from now on.
Sainsbury's had an online order form from us to buy groceries worth £200. The order never reached us because we were unable to get a delivery slot on their website or to get a call into their call centre. So, we went to a competitor. Our expectations of how groceries are delivered has changed. Our need for groceries has not. We went to a competitor instead. Imagine if 100,000 people did that, what the loss of income is to Sainsbury's.
Customer loyalty is rooted in the overall customer experience (CX), and failure to at least meet customer expectations can threaten loyalty. This is especially true in times of crisis when everything, including customer needs, expectations, established relationships, and the customer experience are in a state of rapid and often unpredictable flux.
COVID-19 has meant that organisations must now switch their focus away from needs alone to needs and expectations. They are not the same thing. We all hear of plenty of organisations who say: “our goal is to meet our customers’ expectations”. However, if they do not know what those expectations are, in detail, how can they possibly meet them?
Bain surveyed 362 firms’ top executives. 80% of them believed that they delivered a superior experience to their customers. When the customers of these organisations were asked, they said that only 8% were doing so.  The gap in expectations was massive.
It is worth thinking how expectations are changing every day now. Do you know, with rigour, what your customers’ expectations are? For certain they are very different from what they were pre-COVID 19. Taking the pulse of customers in such times is a critical concern.
Once you can measure the expectations gap, you can implement customer driven improvements. Then you can blow the competition away. Let me know if this gap matters to you.

My take-away from Rowan's article is this: Coronavirus will have created lasting changes in customer behaviour based upon new expectations. Expectations that were formed from new experiences they were forced to try as a consequence of lockdown, etc.

The key is to avoid the headline debates, and instead talk to customers frequently, and in high volumes, to truly understand how underlying behaviour is changing over time. Only that way will you deliver against evolved customer expectations, and really move your business forward.


If you'd like to know more about measuring Customer Expectations, feel free to contact Rowan, or get in touch with me at Yomdel: simon.taylor@yomdel.com


Topics: customer experience, Coronavirus, business change