Open for business: New engagement models for a new normal
POSTED : May 20, 2020
BY : Colin O'Neill

As organizations make plans to reopen, they face critical decisions about how to reengage their customers. Consumers will return but for many their priorities and preferences will have changed. Brands must negotiate the new normal with care and resist the temptation to simply pick up where things left off. Three themes that have emerged or accelerated during quarantine may offer useful perspectives on how organizations can engage consumers in this new normal.

Common good(s): Engaging your community at the last mile

As the virus spread, the use of face masks became commonplace. Face mask patterns, tutorials and styles were shared online. Production sprung up organically in basement sewing rooms, local upholstery stores and garment manufacturers. This flipped the typical supply chain model where design and IP are protected and production pushed offshore. In addition to helping meet demand, this helped reduce fear around where items are sourced, streamlined logistics and connected local communities around a purpose.

The IP for software or sneakers is obviously different than a simple face mask, but the competitive advantages of a global supply chain may not be as important for everyone in our new normal. Exclusivity, logistics and global reach may be superseded by inclusivity, safety and conscious consumption. Activating a community of your customers could be an important element of how you go to market in a new reality. How might your organization co-create something with your customers that meets the moment? Can you leverage a network of tools and talent and through your brand, and orient that toward the creation of common good?

Presence: More intimate digital moments

We’re experiencing a global crisis, but it’s also very personal and intimate. While many of us long for connection, there is a great deal of caution in our interactions. Concerns about health can make transactional experiences suddenly personal again. In China, food delivery services now share the delivery driver’s body temperature to reassure customers that the delivery is safe. Additionally, contact tracing will shape a new way of engaging that places more value on knowing where you were, who you came in contact with and your current health status. The new normal will be more digital and yet more personal as our biometric and location data become more valuable.

This creates a need to bring some more humanity, expression and care to these virtual experiences. To connect appropriately, brands will have to define their presence in new ways, reimagining aspects of the customer experience to handle this data in thoughtful ways. Can you connect data across partner organizations to create a more personal experience for your customers? Can digital brand representatives bring aspects of an in-store experience to online shopping? How might you create a more resonant and personal brand moment out of delivery and unboxing?

Leaner-ship: Lean leadership from the front lines

We’ve seen many essential services reassess how they work from the front lines. Healthcare organizations have removed administrative and access barriers to telehealth, and reconfigured wards and processes to treat patients and protect staff. Lessons learned on the front line will inspire a new wave of leaders with firsthand experience instituting leaner, more flexible ways of working. Many will not accept a return to business as usual. Their personal experiences of making change on the front lines will force organizations to ensure the hard-learned lessons of the pandemic result in better systems.

Organizations privileged enough not to be on the front lines of the pandemic can learn these lessons, too. How can you orient your organization toward leaner leadership with more effective governance and increased flexibility? What signature elements of your culture can be applied in meaningful ways to empower creative leadership and deepen employee engagement? You figured out how to work from home, but can you empower employees to lead from home?

The desire to return to normal is strong, but in many ways normal was far from optimal. The trends noted above serve to remind us of the power of the individual. For organizations ready to meet the moment there is an opportunity to emerge stronger by acknowledging this and reengaging in more flexible, human and connected ways.

PK’s remote Scenario Planning and Design Thinking workshops are helping our clients reimagine and reinvent customer and employee engagement for a changing future. Contact us to learn more.


About the Author

Colin O'NeillColin O’Neill serves as VP of Experience Design at PK. He embodies connected experience and expertise, bringing multiple disciplines together at the intersection of design, technology and business. Colin is inspired to help clients bring a customer-informed perspective deep into the systems and stories that define their business—and, ultimately, to deliver delightful digital experiences. A native of Dublin, Ireland, Colin has over 20 years of experience as a digital strategist, designer and creative director for B2B and B2C clients such as IBM, Kodak, Charles Schwab, LinkedIn and Adobe.

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