Perspectives

COVID-19: A human-first approach as you recover and thrive

Human interaction with customers becomes a higher priority in a world where it is much harder to do

We are all on a global mission to reduce the spread and ultimately eliminate COVID-19. As we do that, though, businesses everywhere also need a steady focus on providing customers what they need. Major aspects of our lives are now irreversibly changed, and every business needs to rethink how it will serve customers’ newly prioritised basic needs in ways that assure safety, demonstrate empathy, and build trust. No company can avoid the imperative to change in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

Before COVID-19 spread around the globe, businesses didn’t have to think too hard about how to serve basic human needs. Everything seemed to work just fine, and businesses invested in offerings to serve more sophisticated human needs versus the basics.

Then, over the course of a few short weeks, lockdowns isolated people in their homes and cut down broad swathes of the economy. What were once basic human needs are now priority human needs. But the problem is that the once-basic needs require a high degree of physical, in-person interaction to deliver. To keep people safe from the virus, businesses need to respond by putting offerings into the marketplace that minimise physical interactions and maximise digital interactions. Done right, these digital offerings for our newly prioritised human needs will replace in-person interactions but still maintain the human touch. It’s fair to say that our society has been caught flat-footed, and if the pandemic recurs in waves, business leaders better future-proof themselves now by learning from what we’re going through.

What may be irreversible is the fear of being in groups. Businesses and their customers overnight had to rethink how to satisfy needs without exposing people to the virus. Once-simple things such as shopping for groceries, getting a prescription filled, or seeing a doctor for routine matters now require higher levels of investment in digitisation to keep people safe. What matters most moved from convenience to safety, from cost to simple availability, and from wants to basic needs.

This crisis has suddenly redefined how companies interact with their customers. Every business needs to adapt, change and innovate their practices to remain relevant. There are no exceptions. Businesses that fail to act will find it difficult to recover and thrive.

Resilient leadership today must be able to turn a business toward priority human needs. Your food, family, money, work, learning and wellness are without doubt what is now shaping and driving the economy. Even if your business didn’t historically address any of these needs, you need to re-purpose yourself and find the way. Everyone has a valuable role to play.

These are times like we have never seen before. Times that require resilient business leaders to change their thinking. As Robert Burns wrote in Scots Wha Hae in relation to a historic battle that occurred over 700 years ago, “Now’s the day, and now’s the hour.” That quote could not be more precise for our current situation: We need to act, and we need to act now. To help you do that we offer five practical steps to achieve a human-first approach as you recover and thrive.

  1. Understand your customers deeply
  2. Bring empathy and humanity
  3. Embrace digital acceleration
  4. Be open to collaboration
  5. Build for agility and adaptability
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