Our Thoughts

What’s important to customers in a changing world?

4th May 2020

Coronavirus and the lockdown have driven massive shifts in customers’ attitudes and behaviours which, in many cases will be permanent. We could be looking at the biggest shift in what’s important to customers since customer satisfaction research became mainstream in the 1990s.

How do you make sure your business is ‘doing best what matters most to customers’ if ‘what matters most’ has undergone a fundamental shift?

What’s important to customers in a changing world?

Last week we reported on the initial findings of our April 21st TLF Panel survey “Will the lockdown change things forever” which you can read here. Whilst the headlines showed that 43% expected their lives to get back to normal as soon as the lockdown ends, 57% expect lasting changes to the way they lead their lives.

As is often the case, you have to look behind the overall stats to get the true insight. On changing customer priorities there’s a big variation by age, although not by other demographics. For the under 25s it’s 60-40 in favour of straight back to normal. 25-44s are split right down the middle but over 45s are two thirds – one third behind lasting lifestyle changes.

Of course, there are attitudinal differences within age groups, 40% of under 25s, for example, don’t expect their lives to be the same again. This all illustrates that companies need to understand how Covid19 has changed their customers’ priorities. Organisations trying to ‘do best what matters most to customers’ may be focusing on the wrong things if ‘what matters most has changed’. Testing the validity of importance scores or any other historical information on customers’ priorities would therefore be very sensible.

The lockdown survey elicited many detailed and very thoughtful comments from respondents. This article outlines the insight we have obtained from analysing and coding the comments.

There were a range of interesting themes emerging from the comments in the survey, watch the videos below to hear comments from 2 of our panellists. They talk about the impact of lockdown and how their lives might change in the future.


From our analysis, we can identify 3 core themes:

1. Appreciate life

This is by far the most common theme across the sample, and is encapsulated by this comment:

“The appreciation that I have gained for what seemed to be the most trivial day-to-day activities has grown immensely. Everything that you assumed would be easily available, food, social activities, time spent with wider family has been ripped away. But in its place has grown a new perspective on all things, a calmness, the ability to do things without a pressing schedule or deadline just because you want to do them. I know now what really matters to me and I'm going to make every effort after lockdown to soak up the everyday and not pine for the unachievable. Because what we already have is so much more than what we thought we needed”. 45-54 year old male, Nottingham.

Those who think their life will get back to normal talk about seeing friends and family in person, giving them a hug and getting out of the house again. The 57% who think life will change for ever are more likely to talk about reassessing what’s important, appreciating the little things in life more, spending less money on things they don’t need and enjoying what’s on their doorstep – the garden, nature, local walks.

These people are often appreciative of key workers especially unsung heroes such as shop workers and there will be opportunities to improve customer loyalty as they say they will be more likely to support companies that have treated their staff well during the lockdown and avoid those that have done the opposite.

2. Live life

There is a definite group that can’t wait to getting back to doing all the things they did before the lockdown, like this young lady from Manchester!

“McDonald’s, then Burger King then KFC. Beyond that initial burst I think I will respect freedom more.”

Freedom to go where they want, whether the pub, the seaside, concerts and theatre, the gym, their club or the shops, is a key theme for this group with holidays top of the list for many. The other related theme is socialising with friends, which would be good news for cafes, pubs and restaurants.

“I hope things will get back to some sort of normality soon. I am looking forward to going to the Gym (I can't believe I am saying this! LOL) and being able to go browsing in the shops. The thing I am most looking forward to is going on holiday.” 45-54 year old female, London.

3. Protect life

Some people who anticipate long term lifestyle changes plan to remain much more cautious.

“I don't think that things will go back to normal immediately after the lockdown ends as the fear of the return of the virus will still be there. I will still be wary of contact and personal hygiene for some time to come. I won't be travelling outside of the country for some time in fear of being stranded in a foreign country but I will still need to go on holiday to somewhere in the UK to get a break from the house.” 35-44 your old male, Leeds.

Key themes for this group are long term maintenance of social distancing and hygiene measures, less or no foreign travel and avoiding anywhere with crowds such as sporting events, theatre, cinema and even cafes, restaurants and shops.

As well as developing a truly effective omni-channel customer offering, businesses that need face-to-face contact must effectively communicate how they will change and provide a safer environment for customers to visit. They will need to convince this over-65 lady from Nottingham:

“I won’t be going into pubs or crowded public places. I will be riding my bike more as I have really enjoyed dusting it off and getting more exercise. Yes, my attitude has definitely changed to life and I will have a different routine in the future.”

And the stats?

For those of you who are interested in the numbers the charts illustrate the weight of feeling behind the most common thoughts and feelings mentioned by respondents. Charts show the number of times each point was mentioned.
Asked to respondents who said they expected their life to change after the lockdown:

How do you think your life will change? What kind of things won't you be doing that you used to do before? What kind of things will you be doing more of in future that you didn't used to do before? Do you think your attitudes about some things will now have changed for ever?

Asked to respondents who said they expected their life to go back to normal after the lockdown:

What are the main things you are looking forward to doing that you can't do now? Even though you are planning to do all the things you did before, do you expect you will think about some things differently than you did before the pandemic?

If you would like to find out more about this article or the TLF Panel please get in touch here.

01484 517575
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