With the new government, roadmap signposting us to embrace a “New Normal” way of conducting our lives; with the 2m rule becoming part of our everyday vocabulary and therefore how we behave socially, and as a business, we find ourselves creating the “New Normal”.

Until the next phase, one thing I have learned over the past 11 weeks is that people and businesses need to be agile and resilient to adapt to the ever-changing landscape and customer-buying habits.

Creativity, the new normal

We can say that recovery for some sectors will be more challenging than others. For me, the big four of hospitality, travel, housing, and the automotive industries being the most interesting to watch. They have all shown in the past an ability to be highly creative and demonstrated resilience to economic downturns. I think over the coming months their creativity will reach new levels, as they rethink how they can remodel their space, environment, and processes to offer a safe and pleasurable guest experience.

As small groups from different households begin to mix, paving the way for more restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops to open, a new kind of interactive guest experience will have to be delivered. If the two-meter rule stays in place many of these establishments may only be able to safely generate 50% of their pre-March revenues, as retailing is going more online, so will a larger element of these sectors.

It will not be long before we get the House Party delivery boxes! Packages delivered to your door that include not only perfectly matched food and drink, access to online cooking videos from your favourite chefs, but also the ability to book a bartender by the hour to mix the pre-dinner cocktails and a virtual DJ to entertain your guests after you have served a Michelin Star meal. It will be like the 80’s house party scene all over again, only this time it will be you and a friend dancing in the kitchen, not quite the same as dancing on a beach in Ibiza with 1000 strangers.

Online proposition

The automotive and property sectors made their online jump a few years ago, giving the opportunity to be open for business 24/7 for customers to search and review. Over the years, this has had a dramatic effect in the automotive sector with the number of customer visits to the dealership dropping from around 3.5 10 years ago to 1.2-1.4 visits in 2019, depending on which report you read.

Customer experience

We only have to reflect on the previous 10 weeks to realise this is going to get even lower, many dealerships have benefited by continuing selling vehicles online with higher volumes than expected in many cases, showing how customer buying habits change so quickly. A rethink and remodeling of this process, for both legal and experiential elements, must be a priority. Giving those businesses who are able to adapt quickly the edge, providing a smooth, easy, engaging, and uncomplicated process, which is designed around behaviours and experience, creating a virtual comfort for their guest, is a must.

It is only natural that customers will be more demanding around the way we connect and engage when it comes to making a choice with whom they buy from; after all, the process should be less time consuming, for many only visiting the showroom for an unaccompanied demonstration drive or collecting their vehicle.

Customer journey

We often simplify a purchase journey by talking about the 4 “P’s”: Product, Person, Promotion, and Price. These days, more than ever, the Person is the biggest advantage or risk to any business.

Let me explain my thinking: The Product is defined by the Brand, and they have all successfully carved out a personality and character that have their own attractions, no one builds a poor car these days. With the internet, social media, radio, and TV, there is no lack of awareness for the Brands or Retailers, with an extensive choice of models and variants available.

For Price, we all know it is really value, and it is a collective combination of the other three, as seen through the eyes of the individual customer.

This leaves the Person, who individually adapts the experience to engage and deliver the customers’ requirements. As the environment and platforms change, so must the skill level.

How we communicate

We communicate with each other in three ways: body language, tone, and words. With body language at 56% of communication, we need to be mindful of the effect this has on others, and how it helps us all to build rapport. With face-to-face, we have a longer period of time to build on the relationship, whereas we do not have this luxury during short interactions over a screen.

The new normal

Therefore, on a digital setting, there has to be a different approach, we need to develop the sales teams ability to build rapport quickly over these platforms, give them the confidence to be relaxed and engaging in front of a screen while conducting a virtual fact-finding appointment or delivering a static demonstration of the vehicle. It is during these short interactions that we will either connect and enhance our value or not. If the sales team is not confident and comfortable with communicating professionally over a screen, how will they ever relax the customer?

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us all a shock, but it has also created an opportunity for businesses to create the type of “New Normal” that we want – the one that will help us grow for the future.

All the very best and stay safe.

Paul

paul.canning@gmdpeople.com

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