Corona interim stocktaking: How companies are benefiting from current developments

“The future is not what it used to be” – Closing our eyes to this fact jeopardizes the sustainability of organizations. On the other hand, this is exactly the time to set the course for future success. In his Corona interim report, Avenga CEO Jan Webering explains what changes are coming, their implications, and what decision-makers should be doing now in order to emerge from the crisis with their companies stronger than ever before. 

It is the proverbial power of habit: For a new behavior to become routine it takes an average of 66 days. This is the conclusion of a study by British researcher Pippa Lally, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. This time span is relevant as in virtually every business and household, 66 days have already passed since the corona pandemic began to radically change our work and private lives – during which time we have accustomed ourselves to many new things. What’s more, despite an initial easing of the situation, no one can seriously estimate how long these extraordinary circumstances will continue.

It is not without good reason that two of the largest US corporations, Google and Facebook, announced earlier this month that, for the time being, their employees will work from home until the end of the year. The same applies to SAP’s approximately 24,000 employees in Germany. Twitter sent a clear signal that there would be no return to business as usual even after the end of the Corona pandemic. The microblogging service provider has already allowed its employees to work from home “forever”. This means that employees who can and want to work from home will never have to return to the office. 

The home office has passed the practical test and is here to stay

The French automotive group PSA, which includes Opel, has even gone one step further. “Outside of production, working remotely is to become the rule for all business units,” says personnel manager Xavier Chereau. In the future, employees will be allowed to work on the factory site for one day, or a maximum of one and a half days, a week. This means that soon no one will have to explain why they work from home – but, rather, why they want to come to the office to do so. 

It remains to be seen whether working from home will become the new normal. At the moment, most employees would like to work from home permanently. However, there are also many voices expressing the wish to finally be able to return to their company desk. In any case, from an employer’s point of view, it will be difficult to continue to find good arguments against working from home if this is desired. In practice, home offices have simply worked much better than many a boss previously believed. In many places, with no need for the typical nine to five office hours, attendance requirements will no longer exist.

“Forecast 1: The home office is here to stay. In the future, results rather than a worker’s presence will count more.”  

Banking and insurance customers are increasingly turning to digital services

It is not only the world of work which is being catapulted into the digital future but also individual behavior has changed. Whether online education and training or virtual workouts: Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, many people have discovered the online world for themselves. According to Bitkom, for example, in recent weeks more than a quarter of internet users have been watching online educational videos for the first time; a good one in five has taken part in online sports courses for the first time. Additionally, use intensity has increased significantly. “There are currently many first-time users experiencing online services because offers from the analog world are no longer available or can only be used to a limited extent. This will also shape usage behavior in the long term,” explains Bitkom CEO Dr. Bernhard Rohleder. 

Current studies in the finance and insurance sector have come to very similar conclusions. The World Insurance Report 2020, for example, shows that consumers across generations are increasingly turning to digital channels, whether to obtain information, buy insurance products, or make transactions. The COVID19 pandemic has further accelerated this development. For example, in an online survey conducted on behalf of the cooperative banks, 20 percent of Germans say that their attitude to digital banking has changed positively during the Corona crisis. In another representative survey, every tenth online customer stated that they would like to increase the handling of their banking and insurance matters via the Internet as a result of COVID-19. This result also applies to both the over 55-year-olds as well as to the younger interviewees. 

Customer Experience (CX) is becoming the most important differentiating factor

It is hardly surprising that the criteria, flexibility and user-friendliness, are becoming increasingly important in the choice of provider. From the customer’s point of view, it is of prime importance nowadays to be able to decide for yourself when and how to contact your financial service or insurance provider. To meet this requirement, many companies, given the current developments, are bringing forward and implementing digitization projects which were already planned, and in some cases are planning considerable additional investments. 

For digital offers to be both attractive and secure competitive advantages, it is essential to intensively examine the situation-specific needs of the customers. What is needed are intuitive solutions which offer real added value and tangible additional benefits. In this context, the authors of the KUBUS Study 2019 point out a common and serious mistaken belief: Customers are rarely either completely analog or completely digitized. The personal advisor, for example, is still the preferred source of information for all age groups. However, personal support nowadays does not mean analog communication. According to the study, agents who rely on a variety of communication channels and have personal, telephone, and electronic contact with their customers achieve by far the highest transaction rates. 

“Forecast 2: Due to the intensified competition on the Internet, customer experience will become even more important in the future than it has ever been. Personal advice is increasingly shifting from analog to digital.”

Winners will benefit highly and in the long term

Etymologically, the Greek word “krisis” does not denote a permanent state, but the climax or turning point of a dangerous development. The decision-making situation associated with this usually offers the opportunity to both resolve conflicts as well as the possibility to aggravate them. In other words: Every crisis will pass over at some point, this one included. And it will produce winners and losers.

There are many indications at present that the way out of the Corona crisis will be a digital one. The COVID-19 pandemic has impressively shown us how important digital technologies are for a society to function. It is no coincidence that digitized organizations and the digital economy have proven to be far more resilient, and have been able to make an important contribution to stabilizing our economy and labor market. Ultimately, digitization simply means being able to react quickly and flexibly to unforeseen events with innovative solutions. 

Decision-makers who have recognized this and are using the current situation as an initial spark to initiate or intensify transformation processes – of which some are already long overdue – can emerge from the current situation with their companies stronger than ever before. The past shows that organizations which positioned themselves well in economically difficult times have, in the following years, grown significantly stronger than their competitors. Following the financial crisis of 2008/2009, for example, German, Swiss and Austrian companies which had made strategically correct decisions during the recession achieved a dividend yield of around 45 percent higher than their competitors in the following ten years.

“Forecast 3: History repeats itself – companies which make strategically right decisions now and push ahead with digitization will benefit considerably and sustainably.”

How digital customer retention works at Swiss Life

An example, by the way, of how a perfect interaction of digital and analog offers works, is the mySwissLifeSelect financial app used by our customer, Swiss Life. The multi-banking tool enables all financial accounts, online depots accounts, and insurance policies to be viewed regardless of provider, location, or time. Besides this, there is a free additional offer which facilitates the contact your personal advisor and customer service. Communication documents are automatically and securely archived.

Learn more in an interview with Stefan Butzlaff about the challenges and success factors in the digital transformation of insurance and financial consulting.

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

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