Does your goldfish notice when you move house? I’m guessing it notices the sloshing as the bowl is moved, but not a lot else. I suspect we’re all a bit like that with the Coronavirus crisis. We feel the immediate effects on us but may not notice the subtler, more fundamental changes happening to the wider environment. In this article, I thought I’d peer out the bowl at one of the underlying changes underway: our attitude to resilience, both as customers and as businesses.
First, it’s worth calling out the big challenge in predicting anything right now: there’s very little precedent for what is happening. Human beings tend to understand things by looking at something familiar, and then drawing conclusions on that basis. It’s what neuroscientists call ‘heuristics’, and in routine situations saves us all a lot of mental energy. But it’s not very accurate if something is genuinely novel.
Personally, I blame heuristics for all the references to WWII. Sure, there’s a similarity in the terrible toll on human life, and the sense of community that has emerged. But comparing our current situation to a 6-year war, especially one that happened 50 years before the Internet and when Britain was an Empire, is hardly going to give us much insight into what is going to happen this time. No, we’re on our own on this one, so we will just have to work from first principles, and look at the facts.
One undisputable fact is that for a large number of businesses, their customers have just experienced low levels of service. Whether it’s a 1 hour queue on the phone, a 5 day wait for a returned chat message, or a 3 month wait for a delivery slot, the experience from many brands just got a whole lot worse. Of course, for brands we like, we’re willing to be understanding and wait. But for ones we don’t feel loyalty to, we’ll just look elsewhere, and find someone who can do what we want. Me? I just bought flour from an Israel mill who were able to ship me some when my supermarket couldn’t. You snooze, you lose.
On the other end of that behaviour are businesses doing their level best and hoping it’s enough. For some senior executives, that won’t be enough, and they’ll have glimpsed their own commercial mortality in the mirror, and realised they are vulnerable. Not just vulnerable from a similar crisis in the future – this isn’t something that more contingency planning could have solved (although many will wish they’d done more). No, they’ve realised they are vulnerable from any rapid change in the market where their competitors are able to be nimbler, more flexible, more adaptable.
As the dust settles on the immediate challenge of working under lockdown, and leaders start to think where they need to take their business the coming months, the subject of resilience will be a huge one. Old, complex processes, especially those reliant on manual intervention simply won’t cut it. They’ll be asking “Where’s that digital transformation agenda?”, followed shortly by “That’s not enough” and “We’ve got to move faster”. Last year, digital was an attractive option to improve cost and convenience. This year, it has suddenly become essential if a business is to improve its resilience in the future.
I think Coadjute exemplifies the new digital approaches that businesses are looking at. These approaches don’t just digitise an existing process, but fundamentally transform how they work, and in our case, how the whole industry operates. The appeal is not just improvements in speed, efficiency and convenience, but the flexibility to pivot when needed into new services that weren’t previously even an option. Just as noone envisioned services like Instagram, TikTok or Zoom before the Internet and Smartphone, the rapid growth in digitisation that will take place in the coming months will enable a whole new range of services, including those we can barely imagine now.
The Coronavirus crisis might not be WWII and your goldfish might not be able to remember your house move. But when this battle is over, perhaps we’ll find ourselves in a whole new environment all the same. As a society, that means a bit wiser, a bit more empathetic, and hopefully, a whole lot more resilient.