During the global pandemic one particular term became common: The New Normal. We were somehow supposed to adjust to a new reality after vaccines and the lifting of COVID restrictions.
Life would somehow go back to normal, but it wouldn’t be the normal way of living before the pandemic. In some ways things would be different. But we were all wondering what would be the new world that we would live in.
Consultants and prognosticators have been filling screens and paper telling those who would listen what The New Normal will look like. Mainly it seems to mean that some pandemic changes in our work and personal lives will continue post-pandemic. More people will continue to work-from-anywhere, or at least work from home more frequently. Hey, we bought all those webcams and scanners and desk chairs, right?
And those aren’t the only things that changed. Google and its partners have even developed a tool (https://thenewnormal.is/) to show shopping search terms that had infrequent searches before the pandemic, high searches during the pandemic, and yet have continued to have elevated searches post-pandemic. Still looking up “skin care”, “dishwashers”, or “closet storage”? You are not alone.
This is not the same as The Pandemic Normal: shopping searches that peaked during the pandemic and have since returned to pre-pandemic levels, like “bleach”, “beans” , and of course “toilet paper”!
Relocation in The New Normal
So what does this have to do with relocation? It seems that there are three aspects: transferee needs, service offering, and pricing.
For one thing, the trends that have taken place in society have certainly affected the transferee population to some extent. If many more people are working more frequently from home, so are transferees. If more people have adopted pets during the pandemic, so have transferees. Shopping searches for “cat toys” are one of those that remain higher post-pandemic.
It is important to understand the new and enduring needs of transferees in the new normal. Old needs assessment questionnaires might not uncover new requirements, and transferees might expect to be served in new ways.
The long term impact on the industry
Which brings us to the next point: service offering. During the pandemic the industry was forced to deliver services in new ways. Maybe you could no longer accompany the transferee on property visits or to the immigration office. The industry was forced to figure out how to support transferees with less in-person interaction.
Many expected the that post-pandemic normal would see a return to the previous level of in-person support. But just as we heard about the long-expected increase in home working before the pandemic made it real, we have been hearing for years about how millennials and other transferees expected less hand-holding. Suddenly that expectation became a requirement.
What was considered a temporary measure has become a viable means of service delivery across many areas. Do consultants need to accompany on property visits, or is there another way to pre-screen properties and “like” the preferred? Are video tours an option?
Do consultants need to accompany transferees on school visits, tax office visits, or to the immigration office or the bank? If they weren’t needed during the pandemic, why are they necessary again now?
The relocation industry is about personal services. This will continue to be true as long as people have the knowledge that can’t be found through Google. Which neighborhood is best for me? In which school will my child thrive? Relocation companies and consultants will always bring specific and valuable knowledge to the process, but the means of delivering that can change.
Personal service does not need to be delivered in-person. Finding appropriate housing is not the same as accompanying a transferee to visit accommodation. Putting together an application and booking an appointment with the immigration office or the bank is not the same as going along on those appointments.
Which brings us to the final point. The reduction of in-person service means that the cost of delivering many services can be greatly reduced. This has not always been clear during a time of great change, but it is now becoming clear.
Before the pandemic, relocation companies had difficulty seeing how they could continue to deliver their services at the same level of quality but with a lower cost. The pandemic has given a view into a new world where this can be achieved.
Competitive success means getting to the future before your competitors. The success of many companies was because they were able to anticipate future trends and offer the right services and pricing before others. The success of Gmail was because they anticipated the lower cost of storage in the future and offered free email accounts with much greater storage amounts.
In the relocation industry the pandemic has revealed many services that can be delivered personally but not in person. We already know that this service model and therefore this business model can be made to work and be profitable.
Competitors are reviewing their service offerings, business model, and prices to compete in the New World of Relocation.
The new world is not the old world.