The COVID-19 pandemic has forever altered what businesses must do to survive. What remains unclear is what the future will look like even after a vaccine is widely rolled out. Everything will depend on how efficient a vaccine is and how effective it will be at protecting us.
As humans have adapted to changing circumstances, their needs have changed, too. Businesses that have managed to survive the crisis so far have adapted themselves to the new needs of their customers and their employees. Moving forward, businesses must prioritize both customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) in order to succeed. This requires making your business approach more human-centric.
The new reality requires adaptability
One of the many definitions of human-centricity is a business strategy that's based on putting people (both employees and customers) at the core of your business, in order to provide a positive, engaging, sustainable and easy-to-adopt experience that will build long-term relationships. To truly be human-centric, you must focus on understanding -- and designing for -- human adaptability.
When we talk about human adaptability, we are really also talking about business adaptability. After all, businesses are run by humans. If you want your organization to be adaptable, there are some principles you should embrace, especially in times of uncertainty.
6 principles for adaptability in your organization
Humans often enjoy choosing from a wide variety of options. Unfortunately, too much complexity or too many options can become overwhelming. During these stressful times, as your consumers and employees face multiple external complications and uncertainties, you need to look at ways to simplify your offerings or processes accordingly.
When you design a product or service, develop it with simplicity in mind. Eliminating unnecessary or less-useful features or options can help your stakeholders (customers, employees and partners) achieve their goals more quickly.
2. Allow for smart complexity in times like these
There will be a point at which you cannot simplify any further. I often advise organizations to allow for "smart complexity," letting complexities remain when they are necessary or if they serve a key purpose. Communication is always crucial here. Customers, employees, stakeholder and partners who understand the purpose of complexities feel more secure, empowered and engaged.
For example, consider the process to receive FDA approval for a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., with its three phases of trials. Here, multiple procedures and processes -- and clear metrics to define success and failure -- are more than acceptable. The complexities are desirable when the purpose is to ensure that the vaccine works to keep people alive and to avoid risks related to drugs and food intake or simply protecting human life.
3. Look at lack of adoption as an incurred cost
Even if everyone uses a particular tool, the degree of its utilization varies. Unused capabilities in technological products represent an incurred cost that means both the seller and the buyer are losing value. To be human-centric as a business, your relationship with your customers and stakeholders should be 100% collaborative and function more like long-term partnerships that generate optimal adoption and results.
Business adaptability comes when you look at the reasons for a lack of adoption by stakeholders and you adjust your designs and processes accordingly. This applies for any service or product, but even more importantly now.
4. Focus on the human aspects of adoption
When you adapt your business to respond to human needs -- even as those needs are constantly changing -- you become good at creating products and services that people love. Whether your business is adjusting to new solutions, realities, working environments or requirements, as you move forward, onboarding programs alone will not be sufficient to ensure adoption of your offerings. Ongoing training efforts will be needed so that technologies and processes can continuously adapt to new features, services realities. Solid, two-way communication plays a major role here between customers and your company.
Keep in mind, too, that adaptiveness to human needs depends not only on your organization's leadership, but also its talents.
5. Hire adaptive people and support their needs
If you want an adaptive company, you need to hire and retain adaptive people. This means highly skilled, adaptive employees with an interest in customer problems and the desire to solve them efficiently and empathetically, who will be better able to generate adoption with the solutions they create.
Are your employees and leaders curious, flexible and collaborative? Do they take on and lead initiatives? How have you supported them and paid attention to their experiences during the pandemic? These are important questions to answer if you want to ensure that your people will do everything they can to help their customers or partners -- and that they stay with your organization.
6. Culture changes from the top down and from the bottom up
To deliver customer-centric solutions, you need to do more than put the words in your mission statement. You must be human-centric by communicating with, training and listening to all stakeholders along the customer journey.
Listen to honest feedback and frustrations from customers, employees, partners, vendors and others. These are priceless gifts that can be used to work toward delivering on your brand promise, to enhance the strength of your company, and to prove you stand true to your words.
When your organization fosters a culture of continuous learning, it attracts more talent, creating and retaining happier, more satisfied and engaged employees. These employees serve customers better, bring in new ideas, and help your customers, partners and the entire organization grow.
Focus on continually adapting to new challenges
The global effort to immunize people against COVID-19 will probably be one of the biggest operations in history -- involving international supply chains, governance aspects and complex procedures. But there is still much uncertainty. How effective will the vaccine be to protect individuals? How many people will need to be vaccinated to really be safe? How long will the effectiveness of the vaccine last before people are susceptible again? It may be years before we have answers to these questions.
As we speculate about the future, the only certain thing is that -- even after a vaccine is rolled out -- business leaders will have to keep educating themselves and adapting to circumstances in order to avoid jeopardizing customers and employees. When we eventually enter a post-pandemic period, it is inevitable that something else will come along that will require humans to adapt once again.
Many businesses and individuals have used their experiences during the pandemic as learning opportunities. The most successful businesses have found ways to become more adaptable and human-centric, and they're preparing themselves for a world that will continue to be in flux.
About the author
Ricardo Saltz Gulko is the managing director of Eglobalis, as well as a global strategist, thought leader, practitioner and keynote speaker in the areas of simplification and change, customer experience, experience design and global professional services. Ricardo has worked at numerous global technology companies, such as Oracle, Ericsson, Amdocs, Optiva Inttra and Samsung as a global executive, focusing on enterprise technologies. He currently works with tech global companies aiming to transform themselves around simplification models, culture and digital transformation, customer and employee experience as professional services. He is the co-founder of the European Customer Experience Organization and currently resides in Munich, Germany with his family.