Have customer needs changed?

We all need to focus on what our customer ‘needs’.  Strategyzers Value Proposition Canvas is the best tool for this.  This tool works because it identifies what will improve the customers life.

Up until COVID, we assumed that customer ‘needs’ change as their individual circumstances change.  This made  our job as a business fairly straight forward.  We identified a customer type and targeted our services towards them. The assumption was that even if some customers needs change, on average there will always be a large enough segment of this type to keep our business busy.

In the UK  we always assumed we would be mainly dealing with peoples higher needs such as  products or experiences that were to varying degrees designed specifically for them.

From basic needs to self fulfilment

In the 1950’s a phycologist called Maslow captured peoples needs in a pyramid.  The base stage covered basic needs (food, safety , warmth etc.), the next stage was the psychological needs of belonging and self esteem and the final stage met self fulfilment needs.  Anyone who has done business studies at university should be aware of Maslow.

The use of Maslow led to an  assumption in modern business teaching. This  was that  the majority of the developed world were satisfied in the basic stage of food and safety. Then those in employment had to varying degrees met their needs of belonging and self esteem.  Finally those with financial stability tended to aspire to achieving self fulfilment aided by all sorts of services designed specifically for individuals.

The assumption was always that individuals would move up and down these stages as their circumstances changed.  Academics implied that economic blips such as recessions might mean that over a period of time larger groups of individuals might refocus on lower stages of needs.

COVID has led to a dramatic shift in these assumptions.  Now we have seen one event leading to a hopefully brief global change in societies needs.  And businesses have to now deal with the new normal.

Three stages back to normality

We suggest three stages of COVID for business.

Before COVID (BC) was the old business normality.

During COVID (DC) is the stage we are in now. Our current business normality has changed, sometimes on an hourly basis.  This is  because scientists, politicians, the media and economists cannot yet agree on how to control COVID.  More worrying still, no one can predict what the eventual final impact of COVID will be.

Post COVID (PC) has still to come.  One day we will be over this. As business we will adapt and we will thrive in a new normal.  We as individuals will fulfil the needs of our customers.  Eventually the experts will catch up and new models will evolve.  Until then here are some quick thoughts.

Before COVID

So before COVID (BC) we were all solving customers needs that were relatively stable. We focused on adding value by catering to their self esteem and ‘belonging’ needs. We were able to charge a premium if we helped customers achieve self fulfilment.

If we didn’t do this directly we were involved in a supply chain that catered for these needs.

During COVID

Pre lockdown we faced some uncertainty but not many of us changed our business model.

Lockdown saw the whole of the UK focus on food and toilet rolls.  Up until that point we hadn’t heard many experts predict this. Lockdown also saw many of us closed by government action.

The first few weeks saw society as a whole value their personal safety.  During this time many essential businesses continued to meet basic customer needs at a time when the advice on how to operate safely was still been developed. Others pivoted their business to meet new customer needs.

As lock down eases many of our businesses are reopening.  All those who are consumer facing are focused on the basic need of safety.

The next stage will be to satisfy peoples need of a sense of belonging.  One hundred days of lockdown means we all want to feel like we belong to society again.  Business has a huge part to play in this . We work in supply chains that now more than ever have to look after the weakest business in their links.

Whilst we live with COVID we will have to support each other.  We need to belong to positive groups.  we need to work with our peers to develop a new normal.

Then we can work on each others prestige and feelings of accomplishment as we bounce back from the brink.

Post COVID

This will end .  Hopefully we will have all learned something from the experience and our businesses will be more in tune with our customers and suppliers than they were before.

Actions for now

Work on your businesses future (even though currently  you are probably back to the floor working in it).

Take some time to stand in your customers shoes.  Really consider what their current and near future needs are.  Make sure your services/products meet these needs.

If you need someone to work with you on this.  Give us a call at Thomas Jardine & Co. We will help unscramble the noise and this will save you time.

Link to our video on changing customer needs and COVID here.