Changes in consumer expectations and behaviour

Lois - 5 th July 2021

In March 2020 our lives changed and normal, everyday activities like nipping out for a coffee or going to the gym were taken away from us.

Now, more than a year on we’ve adapted to a new way of living and over this time we’ve developed new habits. As hospitality and leisure opens back up we have new expectations as to what the customer experience should look like.

We ran a survey with over 1000 UK based people to find out how they’re feeling about stepping back out into the open world and what their experience expectations are as they do this.

One shift we’re all experiencing is the need to plan our days out or occasions in advance. 69% of people agreed that due to Covid implications, they’re planning and booking their leisure and hospitality activities in advance with 18-29 year old’s leading the way on this. Given this additional planning people are more likely to make an activity into a full day out, rather than just going out for a few hours. Therefore experiences need to be simple and straight forward to book and give people the opportunity to maximize their day out.

Not surprisingly people currently feel more confident visiting places where they have access to open, outdoor spaces such as Stately homes, gardens, theme parks or zoos. In May 2020, 36% of people responding to the People and Nature Survey by Natural England said they were spending more time outside during the pandemic than before. (ONS, 2021) Those with indoor spaces such as bars, clubs or indoor music venues are working harder to provide welcoming environments where people feel safe. People who are less confident will actively avoid anywhere with a perception of having large crowds of people in smaller spaces. As a result of this, overcrowding in venues received the most negative reaction. This isn’t something that will go away either as people will be even less forgiving of crowds in 12 months’ time than they were pre-pandemic (11% post vs 15% pre). So brands should be doing everything they possibly can to manage crowd levels and communicate around this to avoid any negative perceptions.

18 – 29 year old’s are generally more confident than those who are older in visiting leisure and hospitality venues even though the majority may not have been vaccinated at the time of the survey – so this could well have increased even more so! Brands that are aimed at older audiences need to bare this in mind when they communicate.

With everyone having varying levels of confidence in returning, how do people want to be communicated with? People still want to know what Covid restrictions are in place in hospitality and leisure venues, 59% of people want the brand to clearly communicate what they’re doing, rather than seek out the information for themselves – however 18-29 years old are happier to seek out the information themselves!

People want to get back to how they were pre-pandemic and they’re aware it won’t happen overnight, but how long will people be accepting and not willing to take Covid as an excuse for service disappointments?

We’ve had to be forgiving over the past couple of months as brands find their feet and re-open. It’s come with challenges around reduced capacity and staffing levels – so we know service isn’t always at the top of it’s game. However, at the moment people are generally forgiving of service slip ups as 73% agreed that customers need to be more patient at the moment. Whilst they are accepting of these service elements now (having to book in advance or queue upon arrival) in 12 months’ time they will be even less forgiving of them than they were pre-pandemic, so there is only a short window of time to meet these expectations.

But what about as we get back to normal? How can brands keep up with these ever-changing expectations?

Having a clear brand to stand by is more important now than ever. If you’re living and breathing your brand and values you can clearly ensure you are matching customers service expectations but in a way that’s true and aligned to your brand.

Have conversations with your frontline colleagues; what support do they need? How are they doing? What is the general feeling coming from customers? What are they looking for? If your colleagues are happy and feeling listened to and valued, they’ll be delivering the best service possible leading to happier customers.

Another way to check in with both current and potential customers and colleagues against your brand on a regular basis is using our Brand Alignment Monitor (BAM), which uses NPS to measure how your brand is performing against key performance metrics. You can find out more about our BAM here.

1. Brand Vista, UK Leisure and Hospitality - Coming out of Lockdown Survey, 2021.
ONS, How has lockdown changed our relationship with nature?, 2021

Lois is a CX Strategist with a background in research and the world of employer branding. She enjoys the range of challenges that working agency side brings, alongside being able to use a wide variety of research methodologies. 
Find out more about Lois