Sir, I have a rather strange request: can I do my exam and final presentation earlier? Wow, in all my years as a lector, this is a first. And can I do it this Sunday at 0800 in the morning? The only time I have left. I am off to work at 10:00. She explained that she worked in the hospital and expected to scale up to 7 days, 12 hours a day. She also does not sleep at home anymore, as she is afraid to infect her kids due to not optimal protection gear. She is mad about that: they talk about war but send us to the frontline without proper protection. Do you know 25% of all infections are hospital workers? We take care of your family members: if something happens to me, who takes care of mine? And I don’t mean a round of applause at 20:00, but like making sure, my kids can go to school when I am no longer there to take care of them. You bailout dysfunctional airlines with recent massive buyback schemes left without any cash to show for: how about making sure that if I die, my family is taking care of?
There is no point in sugarcoating this Corona crisis. Lives will be lost, businesses will close. Families will endure unprecedented financial hardship. If marriages break up when couples have to work from home from the same dining table; when parents after a week of homeschooling want kids to go back to school despite the infection risk cause they have no clue how to handle their spoiled brads: there will be hardship. And at the same time I see, maybe choose to see, so many good things. Social media seems to give a better quality of information. A new Facebook group in our village popped up: taking care of others, doing groceries for the elderly. We even had a Sunday morning sing outside the retirement home session. So cool! I suddenly have loads of facetime calls with old friends trying to stave off loneliness. Social distancing does not feel distant but actually more connected than ever. And I see people work from home like real work. Webcams everywhere, the internet suddenly used for really sharing information and resources. An explosion of creativity from people trying to bridge across the physical divide using technology. Virtual gym, virtual yoga, virtual church, virtual Friday drinks. I see people way more actively participating online then just passively consuming it like only weeks ago.
On the business side, there are 2 approaches. The one is the good old inside out approach. We do what we always have done but now online. Classroom training moving online, online consulting. They might have considered it for years, and now driven by declining revenues, they suddenly take their offering online. Brag about it online, online everything. All the marketing emails in my inbox; adds showing up on my Linkedin timeline, and it all just feels so wrong. It so obviously radiates the fact they still don’t care about me, and really only care about their own revenue. Ask their staff to come to work and move to the Hamptons. Corona seems to improve my BS radar.
The other approach is very different. So many companies, from the single consultant to the larger outfits, use the time they suddenly have to ask new questions. With all our customers online, what can we do differently to make their lives better? Help them here, now, with improving the dire situation they are in. Many of those new offerings are for free. And they don’t pretend to have all the answers. Let me know if I can help you now, connect now, start the connection now. It might lead to future revenue, it might not. And that is ok with them. Helping others is combined with a change in pace, execution in days, not months. The willingness to try new options. Very much outside-in approach, customer first. If this remote online world is here to stay, how can we help our customers better in that new reality? If we’re slowly moving back to normal in 3 months, they realize it will be a new normal. How can they help their customers in that new reality?
Simon Sinek wrote once that there is a big difference between a service and being willing to serve. They may both include giving, but only one is generous. Companies ready to serve in the new reality will come out of this crisis in much better shape. Believe me: your future customer will know the difference. Serve or service, what do you choose?