Visible – customers and users will see easily what has been done and is being done to ensure hygiene
Verifiable – certified hygienic by third parties or documented by video
Valuable – customers willingly pay for the costs of hygiene
Companies are moving to comply with regulations, guidelines, and the expectations of the marketplace in the pandemic. The course of the pandemic remains unclear, however concerns about infection and liability will continue for the near future. Since approval of a vaccine is unlikely until late 2020, and mass availability of such a vaccine may lag until mid or late 2021 under the best circumstances, companies must adjust products and services now. Adjustment means adding value propositions that will motivate customers. Customers cannot be motivated unless the adjustments are Visible, Verifiable, and Valuable – the Three Vs of our Covid reality.
For businesses, the Three Vs are design parameters for improving and creating those things that customers will pay for. Each one is briefly discussed below along with examples. Finally, selected creative solutions are proposed.
Customers must be able to see at a glance that hygiene measures are in place and being maintained. Seeing actions that are clearly within the norms of good practice will generate the confidence needed to have a good user experience. In the case of services, this means that delivery location and delivery staff are clearly clean, at proper distance, able to handle all equipment and products, and are using PPE correctly. Additionally, service providers will need to show that the location has been cleaned properly and frequently. So active cleaning can be ongoing, and visible. If that is not possible or too disruptive, the cleaning can be shown via video screens in the service area. Obvious and easy to read signs, floor markings, and so on should be in place. Emphasis should be placed on routines and protocol for all hygiene related interactions.
In the case of products, customers will expect to see that the product and all its packaging is clean and has been hygienically handled. Further the production steps, and all steps of delivery must be visibly safe. This might be accomplished by creating video of the entire process and sharing it by streaming as the product is made and transported. Factory webcams, body cams of staff, and even video recorders mounted on packaging would be suitable tools for creating the content. Delivery of such data upon receipt of the product could be transferred via 5G systems.
For products as well as services, the related visibility would increase customer confidence and decrease liability.
Where processes cannot be watched, perhaps because they are too slow, too complex, or happened too long previous to purchase, they must be verified. Verification answers the consumer question, “Does my product have the Corona Virus built into it?” Verification can be done by third party consultants that are able to monitor processes and people locally or off shore. Additional verification works could be done by hygiene designers. Efforts by firms could include epidemiological studies in advance of service development, redesign of interactions at factories, design for low or no-touch processes, and training of staff. The appropriate certifications would be posted publicly in addition to government certifications.
In all cases, the visible and verifiable tasks must be such that customers are willing to pay for the product and pay additionally for the various visible and verified processes. Thus, the Three Vs are not only a source of competitive advantage when brining on customers, they may also be a source of income. The costs can be presented separately, as itemized value points, to instill confidence in buyers. Alternatively, the costs can be bundled into the total for products and customers that this might suit.
Prior to the Covid pandemic, customers took sufficient hygiene as a given and considered products from the factory to be sterile in practical terms. Restaurants that passed local health ordinances were accepted by customers with little question. Services that involved close contact were considered acceptable if tools were dipped in alcohol or put aside for cleaning later. More expensive services and locations were simply expected to be cleaner by default, even if the processes were not clearly in evidence.
Such acceptance may have become a thing of the past, even with the strengthened requirements of local and national governments. The following are examples and hints of what customers may demand, seek, and pay for.
- Geely Automotive delivers disinfected keys to new cars by drone. https://www.autonews.com/retail/geely-uses-drones-maintain-safe-buffer
- Motel One details room cleaning, lobby management, and lounge restructuring with emphasis on visibility. Additionally, they emphasize proof of design and checking by a respected institute. https://www.motel-one.com/en/services/motel-one-health-care/
- McDonald’s plans over 40 new safety procedures including disinfecting keypads after each use. https://mcdonaldscorporation.gcs-web.com/static-files/87c67454-fcc5-458a-ba3c-21926216c1c6
- Redesign of factories for easier disinfection, social distancing through choreographing human interactions, as well as screening workers before or during work hours. https://www.at.ford.com/content/dam/atford/fna/documents/PDFs/MFGPlaybook/Ford_ReturnToWork_COVID-19_Playbook_ME.pdf
- Foxconn factories in China have redesigned work and eating spaces to minimizes human contact. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/infrared-cameras-personal-towels-china-factories-go-to-extremes-to-fend-off-virus/2020/04/08/4aae5036-722c-11ea-ad9b-254ec99993bc_story.html
- Greek tourism regulations stipulate cleaning and replacement of air conditioning filters and physical distancing requirements as well as access to doctors and designated quarantine hotels. https://www.gtp.gr/
The Three Vs are especially important for retail services, but apply also to products that consumer receive as well as products and inputs that are inputs to final products and service. Customers and end-users will be encouraged to experience and unlock the value of a service when they can see or otherwise confirm that it is safe. That confirmation will have to be easily done and convincing.
Unavoidably, costs will of service provision will increase. However, customers will accept cost increases when convinced of the importance and substance of the safety measures they are based on. Services thus need to be redesigned, often from the ground up, to minimize person to person transfer of virus whether by human touch or shared objects and packaging.
Additionally, supply chains need to become hygienic. That in turn means that the operations of all firms in the supply chain must be redesigned in order to maximize hygiene, and to document it in all processes.