Guiding principles for brands in crisis during COVID-19

We outline the two key business principles brands need to follow, and how these apply to customer experience.
21 May 2020
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barbara cador

Global Head of CX+

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The impact of COVID-19 on businesses around the world is profound. Many have gone into bankruptcy and others are struggling to survive and respond in ways that will help in the short term and the long. But responding well now is key to future survival. What’s more, the unique opportunities for change that the situation presents can competitively empower businesses. When this is all over, wise businesses will be more competitively positioned than before. There are two essential guiding principles for wise businesses to follow when determining how to respond to COVID-19.

Human-centricity and an infinite mindset

Businesses must start with human-centricity, putting empathy and understanding at the heart of business decision making. According to the Kantar COVID-19 Barometer, 35% of all people think companies should make themselves available to the government to help. Seventy-one percent (71%) of people think that brands should communicate about how they are being helpful to people’s everyday lives. Numerous reports and media demonstrate the importance to customers of how companies treat their employees in these times, particularly those on the front lines. Focus on the needs of the people at the heart of your business, both customers and employees, to guide business decisions in difficult times.

Businesses also need an infinite mindset. If you are not familiar, this is a concept that references game theory, developed by author Simon Sinek to explain the organizational culture that empowers successful businesses. According to Sinek, there are two types of ‘games’ in business: one is finite, the other infinite. Finite games have known players, fixed rules and a clear end. Infinite games have unknown players, rules are changeable and have no end - playing the game, for as long as possible, is the point.

Businesses that have a finite mindset prioritize goals such as being “the best”, beating the competition, and increasing profitability next quarter. Businesses with an infinite mindset prioritize the game. This means being the best they can be, and building a healthy business with a just cause, strong leadership and a trusting team. In practical terms, an infinite mindset allows companies to be more flexible and less attached to any one business model, method or process. Cultivating an infinite mindset is critical for businesses in order to respond well in a time of crisis, when the rules of the game are changing whether the business wants them to or not.

How can businesses use these concepts to create better experiences?

If we look at grocery retail performance, we find that customer’s evaluations of their experiences with retailers before COVID-19 were not strong. Kantar’s Global CX+2020 analysis found that just 24% of people believed that grocery retailers made it easy for them to combine online and offline shopping. It should come as no surprise that we are seeing improvements to established omnichannel delivery and new players building capabilities daily in the wake of the virus. It is the human-centric reactions, however, that are attracting the most attention and winning consumer loyalty, from Countdown in New Zealand switching entire stores into online fulfilment centers in order to deliver groceries to the most vulnerable, to Aldi and McDonalds sharing workers in Germany.

Many people are using our current situation to reassess what is important, and businesses should be doing the same. There is an opportunity to take a critical eye to the way the business is operating, and the customer experiences that result. Is the business operating with a finite or infinite mindset? Is the organization structured in such a way that it can respond to crises quickly, while putting people front and center? Where are the opportunities for the organization to do better?

Evidence from Kantar CX+ 2020 data from before the onset of COVID-19 gives clues as to where businesses can find pockets of opportunity. A human-centric, infinite perspective can help businesses to listen more carefully to customers woes and respond to those issues with long-term vision. Businesses that do this will find themselves still ‘in the game’ once the virus has passed and the world has recovered.

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