COVID-19 has changed the world. Over the past six months, our lives have been upended by the viral outbreak, and we have had to drastically change the way we live and work. There have been numerous commentaries about what the “new normal” looks like in a post-pandemic world, and businesses are busy planning for this. What must they do to stabilize things now? What can they do to safely restart offices and operations and what can they do to grow and thrive in the future?
At the core, businesses need to have empathy. We are in an unusual situation where everyone is faced with similar concerns and challenges at the same time. Businesses are experiencing heightened levels of stress and uncertainty. Bearing that in mind, businesses have a unique opportunity to connect with their customers in a meaningful way. By putting the customer at the heart of the organization and listening to their needs, businesses can strengthen existing relationships and grow trust with their customer base.
Being agile and adaptable to changes is another key attribute that can help businesses successfully navigate these difficult times. With changing business priorities, what has worked a few months ago may no longer be relevant. While staying close to customers, businesses need to pivot quickly to solve customers’ most pressing challenges.
The crisis has provided all of us a window into the future. One of the key differentiators for organizations that are able to succeed is their ability to predict customers’ future needs and innovate fast enough to meet them. Some of the greatest brands that we know today have emerged out of crises. Apple and Netflix are great examples. They transformed themselves in the dot com crisis and have revolutionized how we listen to music and watch television. Their genius was that none of us knew we needed these new ways to enjoy music and television, but now we cannot live without them. We can say the same thing about Uber and ride hailing, Grab and food delivery, as well as Amazon and shopping. As with past crises, this downturn will also spur organizations to think about what customers really need which will, in turn, inspire new innovations to make life better.
For those in the technology world like me, the pandemic has unveiled trends we can all learn to ride on, one of them being the importance of helping businesses to see and understand data. Governments turned to data when the pandemic hit to learn about the spread of the virus and how to respond appropriately. As economies open up, businesses, too, will leverage data to make decisions about how to get back to business safely. With the abundance of data collected during the first wave, insights gleaned from this data can help organizations put in place the planning, logistics, and communication to resume operations, monitor change and respond to new demands while protecting employees.
Another trend that businesses will prioritize is building resilience. Many will transform their business to be able to operate from anywhere and at any time, diversify and strengthen their supply chains and reduce redundancy. Companies that support these needs will thrive. At the same time, let’s not forget that there are also new growth opportunities. Industries like health and wellness are seeing a huge boom as people start to pay more attention to their well-being. Organizations that can unlock these new opportunities will continue to find new revenue streams to stay in business.
Over the last 20 years, we have faced many challenges — the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, the 9/11 economic downturn, the SARS outbreak, the global financial crisis of 2008, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic. Each time the world’s economy crashed, it managed to bounce back. However, the world that emerged was very different. Businesses that can adapt quickly to changes, identify new trends and innovate to meet customers’ needs will be the ones that thrive in the post-pandemic economy.