No better time to put human understanding at the heart of your business

With businesses suffering due to COVID-19, 84% of leaders expect to change their organisational structures. How should they approach this change?
18 December 2020
customer understanding heart
Lucy Denny
Lucy
Denny

Partner, Consulting Division

Beth Howard
Beth
Howard

Head of Business Development, Kantar Marketplace

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More than two thirds (69%) of businesses expect to end the second half of 2020 in decline, according to Global Business Compass, our survey of nearly 4,500 business leaders around the world. 27% expect recovery from the impact of COVID-19 will take at least two years. And almost two in three leaders don’t feel like they have the right operating model to be competitive.

At Kantar, we have identified three imperatives for marketers to support their business’ rebound and recovery. The first focused on embracing a purpose-led strategy; the second was around digital transformation. The third imperative relates to organisational performance: how do you set yourself up for success? Recovery will require businesses to make drastic changes to old ways of working and significantly review and invest in organisational performance.

The COVID-19 pivot

During the pandemic, only 20% of businesses experienced growth. A majority (59%) of the companies that achieved growth, or didn’t suffer any losses, pivoted their business model. More than a quarter invested more in innovation.

As a result of the pandemic and changing consumer behaviour, 64% of business leaders expect they will need to fundamentally revisit their long-term strategic priorities, with 84% expecting to change the organisational structure and 72% revisiting the ways of working.

The way a company organises work is a vital element for business performance, and for customer experience and loyalty.  In Global Business Compass we found that 60% of companies had offered mental health support to employees, as well as taking measures to facilitate working from home (89%) and improve hygiene levels in office spaces (79%). Supporting and developing your workforce will be part of the recovery story: Being aggressive about hiring the best new talent is going to be paramount to growth.

Organisational capability is a foundation of being able to create delighting customer and employee experiences in the moments which matter most.

The experience matters, so make this central to your organisation

In our article on the imperative of digital transformation, we talked about the importance of experience: the brands with an omnichannel experience that meets the needs of its consumers will win.

We also believe this sits at the heart of your organisation’s design. What do you want your customer experience to be, and how do you set yourselves up to achieve that? Instead of ‘fixing potholes’, create and share a vision of this ideal state, and work towards it. Of course, it is a huge challenge to empower an organisation to link and orchestrate all channels to create those optimal experiences. 

One of the popular mantras for businesses these days is to ‘be more human’, and we know from our COVID-19 Barometer that we are all craving human interactions. Thinking about ‘experiences’ is a way to recognise that: it is crucial that business move away from a legacy siloed nature of work and have an aligned focus on creating the best omnichannel, human-centric experience possible. You need to think holistically about product, pricing, acquisition, comms and media strategy, in order to offer a more consumer-centric experience across the buying journey. That means rethinking your ways of working across the various touchpoints or ‘moments’, to create the right content.

As well as a clear vision coming from leadership, this approach also relies on insights, about your customers as well as your colleagues.

Insights lead to innovations: be ready to act on them

The uncertain marketplace we find ourselves in means that innovation (around products, service, route to market, communication) is increasingly important as a route to growth. Lean and agile innovation inspired by start-up approaches is a key enabler of success – if it’s done in the right way. There is plenty we can learn from agile start-ups, but bigger businesses are well placed to balance agility with stability.

Start-ups might be good at getting products out quickly, but they can miss useful insights that would increase their chances of success. Moving at speed is great; it’s also important to incorporate the right amount of consumer insight. Being relentlessly customer-centric – being set up to innovate around customer needs – will help protect you against the next big disruption. Maybe you could even create it.

Understanding people deeply is key. This needs to start with what people are thinking, feeling and doing across their day, their week, their life stages. What is their connection with the brand at these moments? Only then can we assess the gaps between the reality, and our ideal vision, and do something about it.

And 2020, with so many changes in consumer behaviour and customer needs, has introduced lots of chances for understanding, and for innovating. More people are shopping online. Many shoppers are prioritising health and hygiene. Those stuck at home have a newfound love for DIY or homemade meals or wholesome family entertainment. What is driving them, and how can you help them in the right moments? Is your organisation set up to understand and meet new needs, effectively and efficiently?

Remember, insights aren’t just there to validate something you are already doing, and you shouldn’t get so bogged down in them that you can’t move or make decisions. Use data to spot patterns; apply it with creative courage.

We recommend you create a feedback loop with your employees and consumers to ensure your corporate narrative and long-term strategic priorities remain relevant, and create agile teams that can deliver on those insights. As the world changes, businesses need to change – and putting human understanding at the heart of that business is a great place to start.

For more information and to speak to one of our experts on this topic, please get in touch.

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