It used to be that customer experience was the only way to differentiate your brand among a sea of sameness. Now the challenge is not just to stand-out, but to pivot, innovate and transform. These three buzzwords are much more easily said than done. This is not the time to quiver in fear and count our losses, but be a leader in helping customers get back on their feet. We are now serving a customer that’s been financially impacted by COVID-19, who wants to be a touchless and digital customer, and who will be living differently for some time. In modern life, we have been lucky to not have incurred a global catastrophe of this nature in over 100 years.
While we haven’t had a pandemic for over many years, we can look at history to assume there will be major lasting changes in the mind of the customer, as well as how we run our businesses and governments.
The Black Death, The Spanish Flu, WWII, 9/11 And … COVID-19
In a recent podcast with David Mayer – Senior Partner at Customer Strategy Consultancy Lippincott – we looked back at pandemics in history to think about how life might change tomorrow. For example in the 1300’s the Black Death in Europe killed 25–30 million people. It was credited by historians with ending feudalism – structuring society around relationships that were derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour and serfdom. The Black Death also ushered in the enlightenment – a range of ideas from the 1700s – centered on the celebration of reason. The new goals of rational humanity were happiness, knowledge and freedom. Here we also saw constitutional government and the separation of church and state.
The Spanish Flu of 1918 took between 50 and 100 million lives (2.5% of the global population). Afterward many governments socialized healthcare for all, while the U.S. initiated employer-based insurance plans. Additionally countries recognized the need to coordinate public health at the international level.
During World War II (1939-1945) women stepped up to take on jobs largely held by men (think about Rosie The Riveter – a cultural icon – who sports a red bandana, a strong flexed bicep and generally a “We Can Do It!” quote). Efforts to temporarily reduce social and legal barriers persisted after the war, driving an acceleration of female workforce participation. Then the men came home from war, got their jobs back, got married and moved with their wives to the suburbs to participate in the “baby boom.”