The Customer Confidential Podcast

Covid-19: The View from Brazil

Bain Partner Luiza Mattos discusses how the pandemic is affecting customer and company behavior in Brazil, where Covid-19 cases are still rising.


Covid-19: The View from Brazil

Our recent discussions focusing on Covid-19 have tended to draw on examples and experiences from my own home country, the United States. In this episode, I wanted to bring in a perspective from another region, so I reached out to Luiza Mattos, a colleague of mine in Bain’s office in São Paulo, Brazil.

Luiza is one of Bain's customer experience, Net Promoter System and Results Delivery leaders, and she recently conducted some research into how consumers in South America have been spending their time differently since the start of the pandemic. She also learned how they're reacting emotionally and what they expect going forward. Luiza detailed the strategies she has observed employers deploy to ensure their customers and employees feel connected and supported.

Cases of Covid-19 are still growing in Brazil, as they are in countries like Chile and Argentina. At the same time, though, the policy responses have varied: Many countries in South America instituted strict lockdowns, while Brazil took a lighter approach. People in Chile and Argentina can be fined for leaving their homes, while in Brazil, the rules vary by state. Businesses are closed in São Paulo, the city hardest hit by Covid-19, but people are not under strict stay-at-home orders.

And, Luiza notes, in Brazil and many emerging markets, lockdown approaches are hard to implement where informal economies operate and people live in high-density areas, often with large families under the same roof. Luiza identifies several important differences like these between the experience in Brazil and, say, the US, but many more of the things she points out are similarities with what others are experiencing around the world.

You can listen to my conversation with Luiza on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcher or your podcast provider of choice, or through the audio player below.

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Rob Markey: What have you seen that has impressed you in terms of the types of actions companies have taken that have made their customers feel better about them?

Luiza Mattos: One e-commerce player that mostly plays in consumer electronics locally included some essential goods in their portfolio: hygiene, cleaning supplies, packaged foods. This could be initially perceived as a more opportunistic approach. But what was interesting to see was that they were [selling at] much lower margins and actually providing free delivery on all of these goods.

And the whole idea behind that was, “We need to provide access to people that are not able to get these types of goods.” So that was what we would call a signature [example of] “I'm going beyond my scope. I'm going, really, beyond what you expect from me, and I'm going to be there for you. What I hope with this is to create a deeper sense of trust and partnership.”

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Rob Markey: With so much of the economy impacted by social distancing, there have to be a lot of people who are anxious about how this is going to play out economically.

Luiza Mattos: What we have seen is 70% of people feel that they will have some type of reduced household income. [Among] lower income classes . . . 50% feel they will have a significant reduction in their income.

And this is important because a lot of Brazilians are in informal job relationships. Many are entrepreneurs or self-employed. And many of those people are at home, not being able to provide for their family. And this creates a lot of tension in the society about how you balance the measures from a health point of view, but also how you do that while not putting the country into a deep economic recession.

Rob Markey: Can you describe what else you have seen [in your research]?

Luiza Mattos: What we have seen is that, in Brazil right now, mobility has been reduced by about 40%. That's comparable actually to the US. But when we see, for example, Chile, Argentina, it's more around 60%. And in Italy [during] their largest restraining measures, it was around 80%.

Rob Markey: It's not only a challenging environment in which to impose restrictions, but it's also been a less dramatic set of restrictions that the government has attempted to impose than in some other countries.

Luiza Mattos: Yes. But that said, a lot of people are still feeling the impact. Right now, 86% say they are feeling these restrictions in their day-to-day life; 25% of people just say, "I'm locked inside my house." Around 50% to 60% say they have been going out only for emergencies or essentials, and because they need to go out for work.

What we asked was how people were spending their time, and we compared that to before Covid-19. What we have seen, as expected, work and study have been dramatically reduced. Although many people have been able to move to work-from-home situations, this is not the reality for the average Brazilian. Transportation has been reduced, and where we have seen the largest increase is actually the use of digital entertainment. We see around 50% more time invested in digital entertainment.

Rob Markey: The other thing that I thought was fascinating about the work you did was that it showed that people were on average spending more time―not a lot more, but maybe like 10% or 12% more―doing just kind of the normal living and life maintenance things, like sleeping and eating and personal care.

Luiza Mattos: This is an important context for Brazil. It's very common for a middle-class Brazilian to have some support at home to take care of your food or your clothing or your day-to-day necessities. And this has become impossible for many families. We notice a lot of people doing some double routines, having to deal with their work from home but [also] taking care of their daily necessities.

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