Is Everything Happening Today Really Due to COVID? Preparing for the Future of Consumer Services

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It seems, these days, everything is because of Covid. If the dry cleaning takes several days instead of one, it’s due to Covid. If someone gained weight over the past two years, it’s due to Covid. If someone’s dog lost its appetite - due to Covid. Someone can’t complete their holiday shopping or their express package is late – all due to Covid.

When you start paying attention to the pervasiveness of this story, it can be entertaining. But it begs the question – is Covid really to blame for everything happening today?

Of course, the answer is no. But it’s only fair to agree that many things have been substantially impacted by Covid – and, more important, that people, companies and entities can’t continue to use the “due to Covid” excuse for very much longer.

What business impacts really are due to Covid?

Business impacts that are impacting the Consumer Services industry:

  • Global supply chain constraints that impact production, manufacturing, product availability, costs and pricing
  • Shipping and logistics bottlenecks and a lack of talent to get products where they need to be on time
  • Global inflation resulting from supply chain constraints and higher manufacturing and procurement costs
  • The “great resignation” that has spurred a global talent and resource shortage
  • Intense focus on consistent and frictionless customer experience with a laser focus on cradle-to-grave experience around the product or service, not just on the product or service itself.

What can consumer services do right now to better prepare and mitigate the potential friction from the facts on our new reality?

Ten things Consumer Services organizations can do to accelerate out of the pandemic:

  1. Plan early for 2022 and beyond. Secure optimal resources and best-fit partners now so you can complete your top priorities and initiatives successfully on time. Remember there is a huge backlog of enterprise projects, especially for technology enablement initiatives, and ensure your organization can complete prioritized initiatives without any resource hiccups by securing resources and partners now.

     

  2. Focus on employee retention. Lots of folks say the focus is on recruitment; we believe the focus should be on retention. Create and communicate innovative retention plans. If you don’t, someone else will – and may very well recruit away your best employees.

     

  3. Optimize your supply chain. Timely data is king, as is frequent communication and expectation setting with your customers. Supply chain processes should be simplified when possible, and it’s now becoming table stakes that everyone has multiple supply chain options and quick-to-enable contingency plans.

     

  4. Aggressively look for automation opportunities.There are always ways to improve and then automate processes. The biggest upside to this is the ability it gives you to re-focus your teams on work that requires human attention, intervention and thought leadership.

     

  5. Keep your eyes on enterprise resiliency. Ensure your enterprise is ready for the next thing, whatever that may be – another pandemic, a looming global recession, market upheaval. Be prepared for anything and everything – even for unexpected, net new entrants into your space.

     

  6. Intensify your focus on cyber security. Never let your guard down, especially during unsettling times like these.

     

  7. Make data and analytics key tools in your arsenal. Assess – and improve – the degree to which your organization has the data it needs to make timely, relevant business decisions. Focus on data quality as well as the analytics.

     

  8. Treat the customer journey as king. If your organization is not focused on customized hyper care, personalization and constantly improving customer experience, your competition will. Get there first.

     

  9. Make sustainability a top priority. People care about how their products are created and the impact services have on the planet. Optimize manufacturing and other processes with that in mind.

     

  10. Continually optimize costs. Stay lean and mean at all times. Never become complacent with your cost structure.

It’s safe to say the events of the last two years have had a dramatic impact on us all – in nearly all aspects of our lives – personal and business wise. But whether Covid is to blame for all our woes or not, it’s important to plan now and ensure you’re taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you to differentiate yourself from the pack. 

Instead of believing your customers will understand because of Covid, consider shifting your goal to making sure your customers see you are 1) taking advantage of the opportunities Covid has presented and 2) optimizing your business to become even more customer-centric, resilient, safe, sustainable and efficient.

About the author

John is based in Dallas, Texas, and is Partner & Practice Leader for ISG’s Consumer Services Business Unit – supporting the retail, CPG, travel, transportation, hospitality, logistics, and enterprise/diversified market sectors.  ISG (Information Services Group) (Nasdaq: III) is a leading global technology research and advisory services firm.

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