You’ve heard this before, right? “Due to current circumstances, we’re experiencing longer-than-usual wait times.” Those “circumstances” can vary. Over the past twenty months, of course, it has been Covid-19. Sometimes it’s the holidays. Sometimes brands stiff-arm you without even giving you the courtesy of telling you why. There’s even a brand that I call rarely…maybe once or twice a year…and they’ve been using the longer-than-usual wait times idiom as long as I can remember. Whenever was it ‘usual’?
Here’s the thing: Things are tough all over.
These past couple years have been hard on all of us. No brand didn’t have a disruption due to Covid. Some brands took off like a rocket (those that deliver stuff to your house), while others (lots of brick-and-mortar, tons of hotel/restaurant/entertainment) will never see the light of day again. But just because your business may have taken off last year due to demand, that doesn’t mean you didn’t incur some disruption and even pain…a sudden influx of business, if you’re not capable of handling it, can often do as much damage to your brand as if nobody comes around anymore at all. Some brands failed under the weight of success. Some brands took that as a challenge and doubled down on their Customer-centric aim and Brand Promise alignment. I’ve spoken with a lot of business leaders in the past year, and one thing I can tell you about those who thrived under the pressure of suddenly increased Customer demand are those that adhered most closely to their core corporate focus and Brand Promise. They thought much less about whatever particular item or service they sold and much more about the role they endeavor to play in the lives of their Customers. That singular focus on the Customer and that quest for alignment helped them pivot and adjust, coming out of 2020 and through 2021 stronger than they’d previously been. Naturally, it helped to be in the ‘right’ type of business, but there were many whose fortunes had been made pre-pandemic in ways that were completely impossible to do (due to regulations, emergencies, or absent Customers) with all that going on. Many of them survived because they had not just great mission and vision statements, but because they believed in them, and drove their Customers’ experiences to align with them.
It’s those brands that offered solutions instead of excuses. For a while (say, the first month or two?), there was a lot of goodwill on the part of Customers who were sympathetic to brands they loved. “What are ya gonna do?” we’d say. But still to this day, with so much opened up, with so much going on, there are still many brands who are using last year as an excuse. I still hear IVR outgoing messages that reference Covid as the reason why I’m waiting on hold endlessly. Really? After nearly two years you haven’t figured out how to deal with it? It may sound uncharitable, but when your competitors are no longer using excuses that everybody had to live through, you don’t have an excuse anymore. It’s often said that you can tell the true character of a person by how he or she acts under pressure…everybody is a great person when everything’s going just swimmingly. But when stressors weigh down and time is tight, those who keep their cool shine.
Not everybody will operate at the same speed, and some brands—often just due to their sheer size or market share—can more easily adjust. But if everybody else in your market (or maybe just a large number of them) seems to have figured it out while you’re still making excuses, it’s time to get on the ball.
Some brands are solution-forward, while some are excuse-forward. Which are you?
Covid led to plenty of excuses, “due to Covid restrictions…”
But those brands that offer solutions rather than excuses win in the end.