During this lengthy pandemic most businesses have suffered greatly and cannot wait to get back into the game of earning money. There are some noticeable exceptions such as delivery firms, online stores and those servicing the medical needs of the pandemic who have benefitted.
However, as much as those companies that have been closed cannot wait to reopen, they are in for a major shock if they believe that it is just a matter of opening the door, dusting off the shelves and stock and carrying on as before.
Many things have changed, and none more so than the customers. That is not to say that customers have given up on the idea of individual interaction with their supplier, but their expectations of them have changed.
We were already living in a world where people wanted things yesterday. Suddenly the pandemic showed them that they could have it. Initially supermarkets were not geared up for predominantly home deliveries and people complained that they had to wait days or weeks for a delivery slot. This rapidly changed as the chains realised that those that delivered quickly sold most.
Restaurants soon realised that home delivery was a way to stay afloat and the ability to order meals that were delivered in a very short time became the norm. Even the home cooking process became subject to innovation. Applications grew up that let you choose a recipe and then delivered the fresh ingredients to your door. If the recipe needed one pepper you got one pepper, not one kilogram!
In short, there became very little that you could not obtain with a few clicks of the internet. The only potential downfall was if the product didn’t live up to expectations. And, of course, there was no human interaction or viewing before you bought.
No longer did you have to wait while shop assistants finished discussing last night. No more of situations where shops did not have your specific need but they could get it in a few days if you cared to come back. No long queues for you to be able to pay. No heavy bags to carry home.
The same applies to other businesses. People want appointments for work to be done in their homes and for work to be finished on time. They don’t want to pay for the time spent for a tradesperson to go and buy a part they didn’t have on their van. Banks can no longer justify weeks to approve a loan or a mortgage in this era of big data.
The technological industries call what is happening ‘digitisation’. What they really mean is the use of technology to improve the delivery of goods and services to customers. At the large company end today, that means things like putting chips into the label of clothing to check total provenance. It means using 3D printing, and individualised production at rapid speeds and so on.
In far simpler terms, for those firms returning after the pandemic, there is a need to look at the parts of the business that can supplement the person interaction to compete in the new environment with its immediacy.
That involves looking at the ends of the business that have often been neglected. This means looking at the supply end and the delivery end. Too often SMEs do not pay enough attention to the supply chain to ensure immediate supply. ‘Sorry I am only a small business’ doesn’t cut it anymore.
Delivery is also a key component of the total service. If suppliers online can get things delivered next day, then that is the target for the SME. Some people will want to carry their purchases home, but others would prefer a delivery, so they don’t have to carry things.
So, while you wait champing at the bit to return to your business, start reviewing how you can improve the two ends of your business processes to compete in the new normal. Without doing this, you will find that the traditional bits you do dust soon get dusty again.