We're living in a completely different world from the one we knew 18 months ago. Everything has changed, including the relationship between consumers and businesses.
It would be normal to assume that people have lower expectations after a pandemic. After all, many small businesses have suffered during this time, so you'd think that some slack would be cut.
On the contrary, there's a very compelling argument for the fact that consumer expectations have been raised higher than ever before. Certain elements or consequences of the global pandemic have altered the way consumers view businesses.
Specific things are now expected of companies, while they used to maybe just be additional bonuses. We'll explore this argument in more detail and see exactly why consumers could have higher expectations forever.
Cleanliness & hygiene
Naturally, after a pandemic that's focused on restricting the spread of a virus, cleanliness & hygiene is seen as a top priority. Many mandates and rules were brought in to force businesses to be a lot cleaner. This included requirements for regular commercial cleaning, getting rid of any germs or bacteria on surfaces around the premises every day.
It is also related to the need for access to antibacterial hand gel at the entrance to premises - and dotted around inside. For businesses where shopping carts or baskets were used, many companies had antibacterial sprays that consumers could use to wipe things down before handling them.
None of these things really existed before the pandemic, bar commercial cleaning and it wasn't seen as so significant from a consumer perspective. Now, people have high expectations for how clean and hygienic a place of work should be.
From offices to grocery stores, consumers are expecting high levels of cleanliness beyond the pandemic. It's something that will be under the microscope a lot more and could cause companies to lose customers. Will someone avoid a business if it doesn't continue to maintain high hygiene standards? It's absolutely possible.
Another thing to come from the pandemic is the idea of moving a lot of services online or digitalizing them. A simple example of this is hosting a consultation via a video calling platform rather than in real life. Practices like this were brand new to a lot of businesses, opening up new ways to communicate with customers and clients.
Now, these things are more expected of businesses. Going to someone's office for a meeting is seen as a lot of effort for some consumers, particularly if it's far away. Having the option to enjoy online consultations or meetings makes everything more convenient.
You can also look at the concept of selling things online. Yes, this was a big thing before the pandemic, but it's now bigger than ever. Consumers have had over a year of almost strictly buying things online. Again, it's more convenient, so they expect companies to offer this wherever possible. When you think about it, this is all down to a realization that online technologies are easily available to businesses. Consumers have seen how easy it is to digitalize services, so it's what they now expect as a bare minimum.
Finally, consumers definitely have higher standards for the level of customer service expected from modern businesses. Put it this way, the last year has been a desperate plea from companies to try to get customers to stay with them. Or, they've been doing everything in their power to gain new customers as they've badly needed some.
It's all a result of these testing times putting more stress on businesses, but from a consumer standpoint, it meant that customer service levels were at an all-time high.
Simply put, businesses treated consumers as nicely as possible in a desperate bid to keep them happy and involved in the company. When the pandemic is over, companies won't be as desperate as they once were.
So, marketing efforts and customer service levels may start to drop to what they once were. Unfortunately, you've given consumers and customers a taste of the good life. As such, the bar is very high, and businesses are expected to maintain this high standard going forwards.
In summary, companies had to adapt and change a lot about themselves during the last 18 months. Therefore, consumers have now become used to certain standards that didn't exist before the global pandemic.
Expectations have been raised - and they may be raised forever. From a business owner's perspective, this means finding ways to keep the bar high and meet the new satisfaction demands of the consumer.