These are quite unprecedented and challenging times. We are caught completely unaware of such a crisis.
We could never imagine this fate when the new decade of the 20s started in January 2020. We have been in a lockdown mode these days to prevent and slow down the spread of Corona infection. Lockdown is the only option for countries like India that lack facilities, resources, and pieces of equipment like ventilators to treat millions if things suddenly take a turn for the worse.
Consumer behavior is transforming at a rapid pace due to the uncertainty and panic leading to an economic downturn with fears of unemployment, cash crunch, and the inability to procure essentials in a safe and contactless way. The businesses need to prepare for the reboot because the post lockdown era is going to be different. It’s going to be a new normal, which we must learn and adapt to grow.
If businesses continue doing what they have done in the past, then they are not learning, and can’t expect to grow during the new normal. To reboot the business in the new normal, the brands and marketing organizations must adopt a changed approach.
In my marketing classes, I always maintain that firms must create value, communicate value, and deliver value to the target market or intended beneficiaries.
In the process of doing this, they automatically become profitable or loved. So, the customer and community-centricity, which essentially is the mission of the business, assumes more importance during trying times than ever, rather than being objectively focused on top-line and bottom-line.
What are the customer needs currently? How have they changed? Do they want your products/services as in the past, or do they want something very different and more critical, like care and empathy?
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Any aspect of an organization a customer comes in contact with and so happens to form an opinion about it – is a moment of truth. Depending upon how well the firms manage customer encounters may lead to converting them into the Moments of Magic for them.
It reminds me of the various elements of value (HBR September 2016) that consumers look for, and companies need to create, communicate, and deliver. A thorough analysis and delving deep into the elements of value, the following eight elements of value will stand out in creating the moments of magic:
1. Provide Connectivity
People want physical distancing, but they value social proximity through digital connectivity with friends, relationships, and networks in the outside world. As a functional value during times of crisis, being connected is the first thing people want.
Lockdown necessitates the need for reliable information, and media companies, including newspapers and technology firms, can play a responsible role in keeping consumers informed in real-time with credible news and protecting the public from fake posts circulated by irresponsible people. Apps like Arogya Setu, Covid19india.org are examples of this value to the citizens and customers.
To support distance learning at educational and research institutions impacted by COVID-19 closures, EBSCO, and various other databases have offered to help faculty easily find free e-books and articles to support remote classroom needs.
2. Reduce Anxiety
These are functional elements of value and basic requirements. Proactive communication helps reduce anxiety and creates a moment of magic even during misery.
My wife and I were to travel to the US to be with our son, and we were pretty anxious as to what will happen to our tickets, will we get a refund if we cancel the booking. Emirates was proactive in informing us about the cancellation of the trip and the refunds and addressed our anxiety during the current situation.
Financial service organizations, e.g., banks, insurers, Home loans, and real estate companies, can allow customers to pause payments, suspend auto-renewals of purchases without penalizing customers, and to offer similar flexibility to their customers on payments.
3. Reduce Effort
E-commerce companies have responded to the call of reducing the customer effort by providing door delivery of essentials.
Services like banks have reduced customer effort by providing mobile ATMs, and health service providers have come up with telephonic or video consultations by doctors to the patients. Firms like Amazon, Grofers, and Big basket have even started offering greater transparency on the availability of stocks rather than taking orders and then canceling them and informing the consumers about the slots for taking orders and the required delivery time.
4. Reduce Risk
Perceived risk guides consumer behavior. As a functional element of value, people want to reduce their risk.
Food delivery companies are attempting to reduce the risk of contamination through contactless deliveries. ITC converted a perfume plant in Himachal Pradesh to a sanitizer manufacturing unit to address the critical and urgent need for reducing the risk of spreading the infection. Online webinars and audio conferences on Zoom, FB Live, or Microsoft Teams are reducing the risk of classroom education and physical meetings. Apps like Arogya Setu, are providing people information on how safe they are to avoid areas affected by the infection.
5. Promote Wellness
Customers see much emotional value in promoting wellness through online fitness classes, mediation, yoga and therapies, and wellness consultancy solutions.
Businesses like cure.fit and Your Yoga Flow provide virtual fitness and yoga classes. They’re much loved as people try to stay active and healthy during the lockdown.
There has been a surge in the screen time of consumers on their mobile phones in search of content and entertainment.
Platforms like Amazon Prime, Magzter are offering free movies and magazines, respectively, during the lockdown. For media and entertainment platforms, it is the best moment for testing new content to identify future consumption patterns and ensuring customers stay hooked. Companies that invest in content development and the delightful experience of the users will surely stand to gain.
Interior decorators and architects have started offering virtual consultations by inviting people to share their ideas via pictures and then provide possible solutions and ideas for betterment. For customers, this becomes a fun and inspiring way to engage in co-producing what they value.
7. Provide hope
With bleak and gloomy economic forecasts in the media, companies should concentrate not on selling products but on offering life-changing values like hope.
R& D labs at pharmaceutical companies devising treatment and vaccines for COVID-19 provide hope to people across the world. People live better and longer in the hope of something good. Food retailers assuring of no scarcity and creating hope of catering with a full range of products by rectifying the supply chain issues can sell optimism. Police, medical professionals, and hospitals have been dispensing hope, the most valued element currently.
So, it is crucial to radiate confidence and dispense enthusiasm among the internal and external customers as well as the community. The post-COVID-19 world will be different, and responsible businesses can make sure it is a better world.
This value sits top-most on the value pyramid as it offers a purpose-driven social impact. Firms offer self-transcendence value by doing good things for people and society.
Companies that link their offerings to the larger good of the society like the act of supporting health workers during the pandemic offer this value. Businesses should take a step back and think about their community. Maybe there is a way that what you offer could help people in this difficult time. Helping should assume priority over selling during the crisis.
all marketers and organizations must focus on managing the moments of truth well
People will only remember those companies who help them rather than look at them as prospects for the business. Humanity first and commerce later should be the principle ethic now.
The challenge is how best the companies can create, communicate, and deliver value for customers on these elements.
People will remember those companies who treated their customers and employees well and with respect during their desperate times. How well or poorly people are treated in these times will never be forgotten. Hence, all marketers and organizations must focus on managing the moments of truth well.
Yes, Varun. Humane is the only way forward. Marketing needs to be curative during the crisis.
Sir, you covered the humanistic approach of marketing so aptly! I could feel that connection with the company – Emirates, just by reading, the way you must have felt. All that matters, in the end, is leaving an indelible imprint on the minds of the customers in the short term, especially in a miserable situation like COVID, to attain that magic of loyalty in the long term.
Dr Rajendra Prasad Sharma ( our dear Sharmahi) not only my neighbour, but also a nice, polite, sensible, lovable n adorable human being. Wth his rich experiences he has guided our society to a new height inspite of seversl hurdle at every stage. Hats off to Dr R P Sharma.
Keep us guide in future as well.