Coronavirus Week 7: “The New Normal?”
As we settle into week 7 of coronavirus lockdown, Anthony Peacock has written us a blog about what “the new normal” might look be. Read on to find out about how cost, value and good service might look in a post-coronavirus world, and to find out about the ‘death of premium.’
“The New Normal..?”
Things are definitely waking up around here. Time to adjust to the ‘new normal’. But for those of us who have ordinary working lives, out of the direct line of fire from coronavirus, what exactly does that mean? What will we notice most when we’re eased back into our everyday professional activities?
Less money, certainly, but – staying positive – this sometimes brings out the best in people. There was a remarkable story from Germany recently about how Lufthansa pilots had accepted a pay cut of up to 45% until June 2022, in return for no redundancies.
This was definitely not the sort of compromising attitude you expect to find from a pilots’ union: organisations that are normally every bit as litigious as American divorce lawyers.
But the first thing you learn in any business is to spot the difference between cost and value. So what will your less money buy you? How will the world have changed, economically?
There will be more working from home and less travel. Sticking with the aviation topic, some airlines might even decommission business class, just to get more seats on the plane (as social distancing guidelines will restrict the number of people in each row). Fares will almost certainly go up and there will now be almost no difference between a so-called ‘premium’ airline and a budget one.
This redefinition of ‘premium’ is something we’re likely to see in every area of work and life.
Here’s an example: there’s a very well-established supermarket not far from me, which due to social distancing guidelines has restricted its opening hours and laid out a series of time-consuming rules, complete with a fluorescent-jacketed bouncer on the door, giving the place the atmosphere of a nasty nightclub. These rules are here to stay for quite some time: maybe as long as a year.
Alternatively, there’s a scruffy corner shop run by some friendly people with an eclectic array of produce that ranges from counterfeit biscuits (which, surprisingly, taste better than the brand they are trying to copy) to crisps in flavours you never realised existed. They are open until nearly midnight every day, couldn’t be more helpful – even dishing out free chocolate on one occasion – and you are in and out as quickly as you want to be. No queues, no hassle, no lecturing. It’s not hard to judge what feels to be the more premium service.
The old adage goes that if you want something done properly, the best way is to do it yourself (obviously the person who coined that phrase never watched me hang a painting on a wall).
But the whole notion of ‘good service’ previously prided itself on removing that burden by attentively doing things for you. Now, coronavirus means that people will be expected to do far more things for themselves, on top of their day jobs. That’s going to be a big change.
In many cases, it’s now impossible to get something done for you by someone else:
restaurants will no longer be able to provide the service they would like to and it’s still going to be hard to get things fixed or delivered, even once lockdown is lifted.
This means that the touch points of how to provide a premium service have definitely changed: something for any who works in a service industry to consider. And with people also less willing and able to pay for the classic definition of ‘premium’, everyone is going to have to quite radically re-think the way that they and their companies work. That’s a source of anxiety, but also opportunity.
In all likelihood, the short-term business culture will focus on providing services that make it easier for people to do things by themselves, rather than attempting to do it for them.
As people adapt themselves to the current situation, their expectations are also different, so we all have to shift to meet these new priorities.
A couple of people I know, who were previously capable of burning water, have now not only been forced to cook but actually enjoy the whole process. I suspect they will be seeing the inside of restaurants a lot less frequently than before, as their eyes have been opened to a different way of enjoying themselves. Like many people, they are likely to be less demanding of the physical infrastructure around them in future, instead prioritising value and convenience.
So, no more premium brands? Is the possible death of business class on planes a symptom of a wider societal shift? If we’re going to be travelling less, walking more, and being more ‘mindful’ of our lifestyles – a sentiment that many different people have expressed – what’s the point in having a premium German car when you could get something much smaller, cheaper and environmentally-friendly from Japan?
It’s not exactly a rejection of consumerism, but instead the adoption of a different type of consumerism. So it’s likely that we will see a big explosion of self-help in all its forms over the coming weeks: whether psychological, physical, or digital.
One thing everyone agrees on is that there will be change, and that change is one of the biggest causes of stress. While adaptable, humans are fundamentally creatures of habit.
Recognising that these important changes are coming – in both our personal and professional lives – and analysing what they mean is key to getting the very most out of them. The opportunities are there because the things we fundamentally like and dislike haven’t changed at all: only our way of doing them.
For more of Anthony Peacock’s coronavirus content, check out some of his recent articles: