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Ask questions, listen and – critically – make decisions

Dr Nick Baker Chief Research Officer 23/04/2020

Post COVID-19: The future is about renewal and adapting

In a world defined by discontinuity, the winners and losers will be characterised by those organisations able to make quick and decisive transformation reflecting the new environment.

The unexpected circumstances which are at the root of the social and economic shock that is COVID-19 demand decisive, evidence-based actions to navigate the transitional uncertainty and the eventually emerging new normal.

Customers can’t give you the answers or tell you what to do, but they are definitely a core part of the answer.

At times like this revenues and cashflow often fall much faster than ongoing operational costs, putting pressure on a firm’s everyday existence. Borrowing is cheap, but accessibility difficult.

Also, is borrowing a path through a transition which has no known end, in terms of destination or duration, really sensible?

At this time, to come out of this situation in the best possible shape, organisations and their leaders must remain calm and transparent, while being decisive and agile, certainly not dogmatically holding onto past norms, business models or ways of working.

If we look at a specific example: before COVID-19, the majority of people still used the bank branch to open new accounts. The same was often true of consumers and small businesses taking out a loan. But what do you do if branches are closed?

Well, one clear option is to not open accounts or take out loans, but this is not sustainable. For financial organisations this is also a clear prompt to assess their digital operational capabilities and also to not see this as a simple COVID-19 challenge but more that this pandemic has highlighted a requirement that was already there – and in spades.

So, what should organisations be thinking about?

  • Processes which inhibit online or mobile adoption of products, services or new registrations
  • Simplifying digital relationships, removing steps and improving customer-facing design and engagement experience
  • The ability to adopt a digital first operational approach and the potential conversion of back office operations to support new digital relationships using digital technologies and seamless integration

These are not small tasks and they are not immediately deliverable just because there is a decision to move in that direction, but the COVID-19 crisis does provide an impetus to ask questions like this, to react and act – whether that be to embrace more digital approaches. Or not. Depending on the market, organisation and context.

But if we look at what is happening, it’s important we learn the lessons we are taught whilst forging whichever path organisations choose. In the US, flaws in the processes are being exposed in many businesses right now, especially with regard to new requirements for the new small business government benefits program. This is a similar challenge to the mandatory VAT filing and requirements of real-time PAYE reporting which hit businesses in the UK a few years ago.

What’s crucial is continuing, if not fast-tracking getting answers to the questions that this situation is throwing up. Customers can’t give you the answers or tell you what to do, but they are definitely a core part of the answer. Evidence from customers, transactional and sales data and market information are critical tools in the box for business decision-makers who are winning, not losing in this period of clear systemic change.

As an immediate resource Savanta’s daily tracker, with 1,000+ UK respondents every day, will keep you informed on how the UK population are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis. The tracker covers 5 key areas: concern & impacthome & work,out-of-home & retailnews sources and approval ratings.

As well as our daily tracker, Savanta is running BrandVue Financial Services. Daily tracking survey of customers at the UK’s top 220 financial services brands operated by Savanta.

Covering retail banking, loans, credit cards, insurance, mortgages, investments and FX, the BrandVue dashboard gives you clarity on exactly what drives brand performance in the marketplace and how to improve it.

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