CRM’s New Normal: It’s Complicated

As we slowly climb out of the Covid anis horribilis, advocates of the new normal (whatever that is) may wish to temper their prognostications about working from home or working from anywhere.

While those are good ideas, and the new crop of CRM apps that support such hybrid work lives are genuinely cool, they might only demonstrate the deep functionality of CRM companies’ platforms and not a social movement.

In other words, they may not be predictive of long-term approaches to business. Let’s not put all of our eggs in that single Easter basket — don’t cancel your lease on high rises in your favorite city because you might still need most of the workspace.

Anecdotally there are lots of examples of how humans, the social animals that they are, miss each other beyond the purely personal. We miss trivia like going into a job, or having an office with a door, and we really miss not having to manage home schooling. We miss all of the little things like a greasy hot dog for lunch prepared by someone else, water cooler gossip, drinks! and more.

On top of that, we’ve been here more or less before when prognosticators declared “this time is different,” like the dotcom bust, various other pandemics e.g., the H5N1 avian flu, and a global recession. Granted, the experts are telling us that Covid is worse than any of that, but a familiar pattern has emerged from all of those events.

Riding Out the Storm

Taking airline travel as a strawman for business activity — an admittedly wide-eyed approximation — you see that travel declines in the event and slowly crawls back in the years beyond. It does take years to resume normal operations, but resume they do.

If you’re an airline with a big payroll, huge energy costs, half-filled aircraft and quarterly earnings expectations, crawling back after several years is untenable. Your new normal will include reducing pricing, staff and flights in an effort to fill seats.

An article from mid-2020 on APEX, the Airline Passenger Experience Association website, reviews how the commercial airline industry dealt with the aftermath of SARS (another coronavirus disease), 9/11, the global recession and more. Worthwhile reading.

Another model in the first Global Air Passenger Markets: Riding Out Periods of Turbulence, notes that it can take five years to recover from such upheavals.

Coauthors David Oxley and Chaitan Jain wrote that “Approximately 72 percent of the impact of the initial shock persists one year after the event;” and “Two years on, the effect of the shock on global air traffic is down to just over half of the initial effect, while after five years the effect is just under one-fifth of the initial impact.”

Much to Consider

Certainly, in a five-year window plus the time of the event itself, roughly all of 2020 and counting, there’s enough time to establish new work habits; but that’s not factoring in the needs of homo sapiens for more social and less hectic work environments.

Clinical psychologist and author, Dr. Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco, told ABC News last March that it’s “absolutely” normal to miss all the things that added up to our normal lives. She said, “We humans thrive on predictability and routine. Even things like taking the same route to work or seeing the same people at our weekly Zumba class provide us with a sense of comfort.” That, again, was last March.

So, there’s more to think about when considering the new normal than what might be saved on leasing commercial real estate or shorter commute times. We may all pine for shorter commutes but that doesn’t automatically translate into not commuting, not getting dressed up, not putting on makeup, not interacting.

For sure, the new normal is coming and it arrives every day, and every day it surprises us. But thinking that everything is going to change may just be a symptom of short-term thinking. When push comes to shove and we need to evaluate and compare what our business senses tell us versus what our Paleolithic social inner selves say, don’t bet against to social animals.

That said, if the new normal eventually means heading into the office just three times per week, those new-fangled CRM apps will be invaluable.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. Email Denis.

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