One of the many negative side effects of the pandemic is the lowering of product/service standards that were “normal” before COVID-19. In “normal times” there was a general surplus of products like fridges, ranges, lumber etc. It was not a matter of IF the retail outlet had what you required, but on what terms could you get it? So much so that the consumer became accustomed to negotiating a better deal than advertised. Rates and terms could always be adjusted to fit a sale and additional perks were added for sweetening the deal. Supply was rarely the issue; salesmen were always looking to beef up demand. It was a buyer’s market for nearly all products and services. Assembly line production and project deadlines were managed in increments of days, minutes or even seconds. Supply chain management was integral to almost all products and services. Failure on a schedule was simply not an option in many industries.
Production deadlines for some industries like construction were life and death before COVID restrictions, but today the market deals with a whole different set of compilations and expectations. Sometimes products are just not available for possession in the time required. I have a friend who needed to buy 30 sets of household appliances for units scheduled for possession on September 1st. He was lucky, he was able to accept different makes and models to fill his units. Other developers were not so lucky… their units had to stand empty till appliances were found (as of writing, they are still waiting).
I know a construction company that was all about a smooth, even flow of work. Reliability was its keystone and calm was their super power. That very same company now struggles with vast dominoes of shortfalls and time delays. The owner said he had to revive his ability to swear from habits given up twenty years ago just to get the simplest of things done. His constant daily stress is multiple times what it was just twelve months ago. Expectations of productivity have fallen back to the stone-age.
I ventured into a drugstore the other day and found that lineups were twice as long due to half the normal staff and there were signs apologizing for poorer service due to COVID-19. Nobody was openly complaining but those in the line all knew that the store was making more now than they were a year ago. Customer expectations have dropped, and this has provided companies the justification to trim their staff/products to increase margins. I know it may be controversial to talk about profit margins but obvious is obvious, especially when people see quarterly earnings increase while their service goes down.
Huge shifts in buying patterns due to the pandemic have opened opportunities and closed venues at virtual lightning speed. Today, buying patterns are focused on those who HAVE the products, irrelevant of the price or service. This, however, will not last indefinitely as products slowly become more available over time and restrictions around the planet loosen. People once again will begin focusing on quality rather than simple availability. The sooner a company can return (or continue) to higher levels of service, the faster it will gain market share. So, as the turmoil of the pandemic disrupts nearly all industries… the sooner that a company can return to the “old service norm”, the stronger their business will be. May I mention at this point, RESPECT for the customer is critical to the word “service”. Growling and barking at seniors in a lineup like they are mindless cattle is not good customer service; it will come back to bite the company.
Chaos always produces opportunity as people change their habits from one provider to another. Chaos is change; change is always an opportunity.
The higher quality of service and respect a driver or carrier can provide during chaos means that natural demand will gravitate to their door.
If a driver (or carrier) can outperform their competition during a crisis, they increase their intrinsic value within their market or carrier. Now is NOT the time to slide into a new norm of lower performance. It is the time to tighten one’s belt and go the extra mile, prove your worth to your customers and become irreplaceable for the future.
About the Author:
Robert D. Scheper is a leading Accountant and Consultant to the Lease/Owner operator industry in Canada. His first book in the Making Your Miles Count series “taxes, taxes, taxes” was released in 2007. His firm exclusively serves Lease/Owner Operators across Canada. His second book “Choosing a Trucking company” is the most in-depth analysis of the operator industry available today. He has a Master degree (MBA) in financial management and has been serving the industry since he and his wife came off the road in 1993. His dedication, commitment and strong opinions can be read and heard in many articles and seminars.
You can find him and his books at www.makingyourmilescount.com or 1-877-987-9787. You can also e-mail him at email@example.com.
Robert D Scheper operates an accounting and consulting firm in Steinbach, Manitoba. He has a Masters Degree in Business Administration and is the author of the Book “Making Your Miles Count: taxes, taxes, taxes” (now available on CD). You can find him at www.thrconsulting.ca and thrconsulting.blogspot.com or at 1-877-987-9787. You can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.