I was standing on the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean when a woman asked me, “What time do the whales come?” For 10 minutes, there were several whales frolicking around with dolphins close to the shore and had drawn a small crowd of people from the condominium complex. I was laughing before I realized that she was serious. What gave her the impression that whales came every day according to a human clock? Maybe it was from watching animals perform at Sea World-type venues.

People have expectations created from past experiences. The past influences the attitude of future experiences. The pandemic has altered nearly all businesses in some way. In healthcare, one of the most dramatic moves has been the sudden introduction of telehealth to a huge percentage of the population in a short period of time; both patients and providers. The need to switch to virtual clinical visits for the safety of both patients and providers was done quickly. But the virtual aspect of the visit is not new for many people. 

Buying everything from books to cars to mattresses is already available online. Families and individuals already socialize on Facebook, FaceTime, WhatsApp, and WeChat. All are apps that bring face-to-face interactions. Businesses use Zoom, Google Hangout and others to meet and conference. Face-to-face online meetings were the norm. People play games and face global competitors online.

YouTube is one of the best teachers in the world for learning how to do something by watching someone do it. In fact, you can watch many videos on the same how-to topic. Nowadays, that includes how to look better on Zoom and carry out efficient meetings. (Oddly enough, I haven’t been to a virtual social event that wasn’t stilted or dead. Social zooming doesn’t seem to work.)

Your customer’s healthcare expectations are set by CVS Minute Clinic, Walgreens, One Medical and Forward, and by Amazon, Apple, Zappos, Uber and others for the rest of life’s necessities. Why would you go into a bank during the workday to get cash when you could go to an ATM 24/7 or one that’s in a grocery store? 

Consumers got a lot of new experiences for doing business in a different way doing the pandemic. Businesses adapted and made changes that are more convenient for the consumer. Many of these will stay, be improved, and made permanent beyond the pandemic. Businesses learned and took opportunities to make their products and services better in order to retain their customers and stay in business. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and see what they did during the pandemic. Maybe they didn’t need your services, maybe they went to a competitor. 

Are you keeping up with your customers’ expectations? Find out before you decide to go back to “normal.” Normal means “conforming to a typical standard.” That doesn’t exist any longer. From now on, outstanding organizations and people will create and enforce their own metrics. And they will thrive in the non-normal.