Covid-19 has changed the way we do business around the world, possibly forever. People are isolating, working remotely and avoiding physical gatherings – welcome to the new normal. While this brings unprecedented challenges for brands, it also presents a huge opportunity to change how we work and thrive in the future.
To empower our clients to successfully navigate change, we have developed the ‘Infinite Loop’ – a proprietary framework tool designed to track how evolving customer needs are forever creating demand for brands and businesses to adapt. The Infinite Loop is broken down into three categories: customers, clients and citizens.
Traditionally, businesses have focused on customers and colleagues. But the pandemic has moved both customer and colleague under the ‘citizen’ umbrella and there is now a need for brands to pivot. Now more than ever, your team and its audience are humanising the business world. How brands act now will determine how they are perceived in the future.
We are all citizens
The coronavirus has caused enormous disruptions to the global market, eg brick-and-mortar retailers are closed, aviation has slowed to a trickle, and hospitality and tourism have essentially ceased. And during all of this upheaval, many brands are failing at one crucial element, they are not making a stand for their customers and colleagues in their common role as citizens.
Brands which fail to recognise that we are all citizens will do a disservice to their future operations. To overcome this, brands must not sit still. Firstly, they need to revisit their values, purpose and vision, and use them as anchor points for the decisions they make during this turbulent time.
ICF Next is empowering businesses to succeed in the new normal. We offer an intimate understanding of the interdependency of the three Cs. The Infinite Loop can inform, advise and steer businesses towards doing what is right in a time of unprecedented uncertainty and meet the needs of customers, clients and colleagues at the citizen level.
The needs of customers
Covid-19 was an unforeseen catalyst that has brought about enormous change to customer needs. But with all change there are moments of insight and key takeaways for brands to use to adapt their businesses.
We have identified six essential learnings about customers to help brands navigate the new normal. Trust is key; customers are looking to see which brands keep their promises. Actions count and future purchasing decisions are influenced by how responsibly a brand acts through this crisis. This has led to a shift in loyalty. Digital is everything; brand engagement has become solely digital. Consumer spending habits have been disrupted and people are more discerning in their purchases. Finally, ‘green’ still matters – people still strongly agree that they will consider products that are environmentally friendly.
In all, customers are taking their role as citizens seriously and holding brands to account. This means brands need to consider their decisions against the three Cs before they make them. Especially when it comes to decisions that affect their colleagues.
The new colleagues
The situation has raised several questions about the future of work for colleagues. Do we really need to work 9am to 5pm? Does the working week need to be Monday to Friday? Does work need to involve a long commute? And so on. The answers to these questions are more obvious now than they were previously, as colleagues have shifted to the new working normal.
Now is the time when brands can learn a lot about the new normal and their new colleagues. How brands begin to manage employee isolation can spark new thinking about their future experience. Covid-19 and isolation have taught us that teamwork does not require proximity and delivery is still possible without a central office.
We have discovered some key learnings about colleagues and how they are reacting to their situation. Their sense of belonging is shifting and their social norms have changed. This has lead to a feeling of stagnation in their progress and their motivation and morale has dropped. This means brands need to shift their thinking in how they manage their colleagues.
The Infinite Loop can offer guidance to facilitate the necessary shift. Colleagues can no longer be viewed as just colleagues; they are part of the citizen umbrella and should be treated as such.
Navigating the new normal means rethinking what the world looks like. Brands need to move forward and look to expand by building trust through increased transparency and visibility. Brands should also reconsider how they view their colleagues and customers. Using the Infinite Loop framework is a good starting point to make the changes.
The situation need not be seen as an insurmountable crisis but rather as the necessary catalyst to bring about change for the good. A change that might not have been possible without it.
James Wilkins is managing partner of ICF Next UK.