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Quality, not price, should be the key driver during the market’s recovery from COVID-19

It’s taken longer than anticipated, but the momentum of the vaccination programmes mean that the COVID-19 pandemic could finally become under control. After a turbulent year that has impacted international markets throughout all sectors, and even risks the end of certain industries we’ve known and loved, a phased return to normality will soon be under way. During the pandemic, economies have been shaken and businesses have had to make tough decisions in order to stay afloat; whether that be by reducing salaries or making unfortunate redundancies, few would argue that these actions weren’t taken out of pure necessity. Some businesses also had to choose to work with suppliers and service providers that didn’t quite meet their usual standards of quality, purely to meet a price point and reduce financial overheads. But as COVID-19 starts to disappear from our lives, it is now more important than ever that a standard of quality over price helps to kickstart what will very quickly become the new normal.

At this pivotal, transitionary return to normality, the drive toward service quality is critical in what will be an incredibly competitive market. Hotels trying to fill their rooms, malls trying to keep customers engaged or even educational facilities aiming to restore and enhance parent and student confidence all require a focused approach on improved quality. Bad experiences remain more prominent in our minds than good and in a market such as the Middle East, where service and facility standards are perceived and expected to be unparalleled on the global stage, it is imperative that this is protected. By selecting the cheapest supplier or service delivery partner, there is a confounded risk that service quality will not meet expectations and in today’s world of social media, bad reviews travel fast.

This doesn’t mean to say that the most expensive partner is equal to the one that can provide the highest quality. If anything, it is more important than ever that there is a considerable focus on the tendering process. Take the extra time to develop a challenging request to your potential partners; don’t just ask for a compliant service at the lowest price, instead prompt innovation and efficiency with a cross-reference to price. This way, you’ll find the most market-competitive way to ensure your service or facility remains relevant in the post-COVID new normal and more than that, that it stands above the rest, protecting your brand image and breeding further custom.

The new normal opens up a wide range of opportunities for innovation as we now face a market that we have not faced before – one resurfacing from a year of pandemic. Whilst there is a section of the populace that will return to a ‘normal’ way of living with little caution, the majority will be weary of increasing numbers of people being permitted into the same space. As such, service quality and innovation are critical factors in restoring customer confidence, leading a long-awaited resurgence in revenue. Challenge your potential providers not only to offer a cheap service, but one enriched with value for money; driving quality and innovation at a price that whilst not the cheapest, is competitive on this new, equal playing field. Remember, you are choosing a partner not only for now, but for the next few years; don’t regret choosing the lowest price to fix an issue you have now that then hinders the growth of your business in the future.

Local governments in the region realised long ago that customer experience is a primary factor in driving revenue and ensuring repeat custom and have made considerable in-roads into digitising government services. More recently, the UAE government has developed GX Lab, a global platform to share knowledge, enable interaction and activate ideas on government services. With the government leading the way, the private sector should follow suit and capitalise the return to the new normal as an opportunity to revolutionise customer experience. Serco’s user-centred design agency, ExperienceLab, can do just that for your own services, using the latest in research and service design methodology to ensure any innovations or transformations you make are not only informed, but sure to be effective.

The Middle East has long been renowned for its quality, aligned to a sense of opulence felt throughout everything you experience in the region. Particularly for travellers, this focus on luxury is part of their expectations when visiting the region, an aspect of the local culture that must be protected. The only way to do this is to continually innovate and improve the services that businesses provide, enhanced by a carefully selected partnership with a company that can not only achieve your existing goals, but help set and achieve your organisation’s future vision.