One wakes on a typical working Monday to a world vastly different, suddenly.
A pregnant friend canceling our monthly lunch.
Neighbors talking about supplies running out at grocery stores.
Flights postponed, some cancelled.
Company events cancelled.
Business put on the back burner.
One wakes up to a world where a serious pandemic has taken hold.
Not being old enough to have to make decisions the last time a pandemic occurred, one finds herself wondering, taking stock of the situation – is it time to panic yet?
Coronavirus: The stats that business cannot afford to ignore
Most comparisons of previous pandemics rate their severity by number of deaths – an important statistic, but there’s another statistic that’s important where businesses are concerned. In fact, possibly the most important pandemic statistic for a business is the rate of spread.
By all measures, the Covid-19 virus is spreading faster than any previously known, affecting over 40,000 people in the first 45 days (while SARS, the swine flu, Ebola, and MERS each affected less than 3000 people each in the first 45 days).
Why should businesses be just as concerned about rate of spread rather than just mortality?
Because spread creates panic.
Visible symptoms create panic.
And panic and mass hysteria affect business very badly.
When consumers stop going out into the world to patronize businesses, the flow of money slows down, which is very bad for the economy.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised that we must be prepared for pandemics to rise in frequency, particularly because of the increasing emergence of viral disease from animals.
Digital options for trying times
So how can businesses prepare themselves for a world wherein we must be prepared to frequently cloister ourselves and reduce human contact?
The answer lies in relying more heavily on technology and digitally transformed customer touchpoints which allow businesses to give their customers the peace of mind of continuing to transact without the stress of human contact during a pandemic.
Let’s look at some examples:
- Commerce: The purchase of everyday items usually rates high on most consumers’ weekend to-do lists. When people don’t want to go to a grocery store for fear of having to interface with other people, it can create the kind of hoarding situation that we are dealing with now.An alternative is ordering online. Food delivery networks in China and the US have recorded 20% growth in orders, compared to the same time last year. The use of commerce platforms not only allows people the peace of mind of avoiding store visits, but also abates the fear of local stores running out of supplies.
- Service: Today most requests for service can be done online or on the telephone, with services like Comcast Xfinity even allowing the remote reboot of networks. However, in situations where a technician must be sent to a consumer’s home to fix an urgent breakdown, there is no alternative but to think outside the box.Businesses may explore the use of an AR/VR headset (mailed to the consumer) and have the consumer troubleshoot the problem themselves, with possible assistance on the phone. The headset would be equipped with a simple UI with 3D graphical step-by-step explanation of the entire process that the technician would have followed. A similar process can be considered for replacing or repairing a defective part.
- Marketing: An important customer touchpoint for businesses is marketing events, which are heavily impacted during pandemics. The use of virtual platforms to deliver event content is gradually becoming omnipresent, if not omnipotent.While a digital experience is still a far cry from an in-person event experience, modern platforms are beginning to allow a 3D-like immersive approach to events. As investments in the replication of visual and audio environments continue, such platforms will continue to improve and deliver increasingly improved virtual experiences.
Trust in government is down – here’s how tech is stepping in to fill the gap
Ultimately it is in the interest of businesses to offer consumers alternative means by which their daily lives are minimally disrupted during a pandemic. Ordering groceries online or watching a movie on Netflix instead of a theater are simple things that people can do to limit the spread of a pandemic.
The healthcare industry has been working for years on remote diagnosis and treatment. While the technology for these was built for use with remote populations, it’s very applicable for use with general populations during a pandemic.
Doctors are increasingly offering patient visitations through a Skype-like digital interface. Lab diagnostics can be enabled by sending self-test kits at home to patients, or samples can be mailed back to laboratories. Results are made available digitally.
Today awareness of the spread of a disease is at its peak with the rise of social media. Also at its peak is the awareness of higher risk populations, like older people and those with underlying severe medical conditions like COPD or heart disease. For organizations serving such populations, digital social networks can provide an excellent means of self-reporting and drawing in assistance when needed.
As the world wakes up to a new reality, one in which coming together isn’t necessarily a practical solution, how do businesses ensure their customer experiences are not affected? How do they ensure their customers continue to trust them through the pandemic, and return to business-as-usual after the threat has abated?
They do this by delivering trust. By delivering peace of mind. By using technology to augment their human experiences.