1. REMEMBER THE PERSONAL TOUCH WITH EVERY TRANSACTION
People who have been through lockdowns genuinely want to connect with others – whether it’s in-person or online. Dr Matthews believes companies will need to connect with customers in ways that are more personal than ever before, and this has implications for customer service.
“There are higher expectations for customer service,” she says. “People are now choosing to go to places and deal with companies that connect with them and remember them.”
Dr Matthews notes that lockdown was a catalyst for many people to change their behaviour, e.g., begin online ordering of groceries, meals and clothes which freed up time for other things. She believes these behaviour changes and new habit patterns are likely to continue as we “open up” after lockdown.
“But people still have a genuine desire to connect with others, and companies who understand how to stay connected with customers will have a much better chance of keeping them and generating recurring revenue,” she says.
Dr Matthews says businesses that have not been able to sell face-to-face have come up with interesting ways to stay connected to their customers who have had to buy online.
“Some have paid more attention to the way the articles are wrapped, so unwrapping becomes part of the shopping experience,” she says. “Others have thought about how to evoke the memory of shopping in their store through a distinctive scent when the customer opens the box; perhaps the tissue is scented, or a bit of scented soap is tucked inside the garment. Some have enclosed a personalised, handwritten note about how lovely they think the customer will look in this garment, or how much they look forward to seeing the customer when they can shop in the store.”
Dr Matthews believes the personal touch and authentic connections with someone who cares for them is key to maintaining customers and attracting new ones.
She also points out that until vaccination rates are 90+%, some people will be reluctant to leave their home, so businesses need to be attuned to customers’ preferences regarding how, when and where they want to shop. “It’s not about what you want customers to do; companies need to be attuned to how their customers want to shop and buy,” Dr Matthews says.
Over the coming year as Australians ramp up their international travel Dr Matthews believes the money people currently spend locally may be spent outside the region, the state and the country.
“While Australians have been spending on their homes and furnishings for the last two years, we need to prepare now for a shift in where people will be spending their money, i.e., on travel and enjoying places outside Australia,” she says.
“So begin now to develop those amazing relationships with your customers, so the money they do spend in their community or in Australia is spent with your company and not somewhere else - or with a competitor.”
2. STAFF ARE CRUCIAL, LET THEM KNOW YOU TRUST THEM
Australians have become used to working from home and are now demanding better work-life balance. What does this mean for your business, already struggling from pandemic restrictions, locked borders, and a smaller pool of casual staff?
Dr Matthews says businesses will have to fight harder to keep and attract the people they need to grow, so it makes sense to understand what’s changed, get on the front foot, engage with your employees, and listen to their needs and wants now, before you lose those you need for growth.
“Reports are telling us that more people are interested in changing jobs, now, than at any other time in the history of Australia,” she says.
“Some employees are thinking, ’I don’t want to continue doing this kind of work.’ While others are saying, ’I don’t want to work in this kind of company culture,’ or ‘I don’t want to commute to the city anymore’. This means Australia now has the largest talent pool available – which is great if companies know how to recruit the people they need. The bad news is that some leaders and managers must quickly learn to lead and manage differently.”
Many company executives think their employees are excited to return to the office, but a recent Forbes article indicated that executives are nearly three times more likely than employees to want to return to the office full-time; 76% of employees do not want to return to full-time office work; they want flexibility regarding where they work; 93% want flexibility around when they work. Some managers think it's more convenient, productive, and simpler to have employees all in one place; they want to see what staff are doing, vs measuring what they are producing. Others wonder whether their staff are at home, watching cat videos.
Findings in the most recent worldwide Salesforce Small-Medium Business Trends Report (2021) suggest employers have been trying to build trust with remote employees during COVID-19. But Dr Matthews suggests that good leaders and managers will have been doing this long before COVID. “Managers need to let staff know they respect, value and trust them,” she says.
“You need to understand their ambitions, their needs and wants. You need to engage with them, ask for their feedback and most importantly - trust them. Just like your customers, your employees want an authentic connection with someone who cares for them and will help them grow personally and professionally.”
Dr Matthews says the bottom line is - if you want to keep good people you need to learn to trust them.