University of Porto
elations between business and consumers have been gradually
changing. The Internet has given empowerment to customers by
becoming a primary channel for contact with businesses (Acar &
Puntoni, 2016; Mohammad, 2020). Communication that used to be controlled by organizations is becoming increasingly bi-directional. Nowadays, there is not a clear and unequivocal differentiation about the way clients relate to the companies that used to guide their business strategies. The traditional concepts of Business2Business (B2B) and Business2Consumer (B2C) are blending together to reinvent organizations’ planning for communication with their customers.
It is within this scenario that the Human2Human (H2H) business model
that values the humanization of business relations emerges. This model
considers that behind all negotiation there are people (Kramer, 2014). People become the center of the business activity in which strong relationships of trust are established. Moreover, Mansoor (2017) considers this approach has the potential to adjust quickly to shifting client needs. In this new H2H business relationship model, companies do not look at their clients as revenue generated numbers, but as human beings with feelings and emotions (Padilla, 2019). In this sense, the company has to position itself differently, not only disclosing to its clients what is of self-interest but maintaining a bilateral relationship of transparency.
Consumers, with the wide diversity of information available to them, have
become much more discerning and harder to reach (Bolton et al., 2018).
Consequently, organizations need to readapt to understand the needs of the
market, understand which messages are most relevant to each audience, and build this communication and assertive and informed way.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed numerous challenges for
organizations. Many companies had to temporarily close down, while others had to adapt their business model to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Several companies have also sought to make their contribution by helping
those on the front line in the fight against COVID-19. In parallel, several
projects have also emerged to support society in the fight against social
isolation, in the purchase of essential products, and in the demand for health services. These projects are characterized by having a strong H2H component, in which humanized and close relationships are privileged.
This study seeks through five case studies to explore the role of these
projects in the fight against COVID-19 in Portugal. It aims to analyze how the H2H concept is explored in practice and to understand the relevance of these initiatives to the society. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Portugal is the country with the largest number of innovative projects in the fight against COVID-19, and therefore the analysis of these projects is relevant to understand their pertinence in combating this pandemic (OPSI, 2020). This study is structured as follows:
Initially, a theoretical contextualization of the information and knowledge
society, and the relevance of the Internet and digital technologies in
contemporary society is carried out. After that, the methods adopted in this
study are presented, also describing the process of data collection. It is also at this stage that the five case studies of this work are presented. Subsequently, the results of the study are presented and discussed according to the existing literature in each domain. Finally, the main conclusions of this study are summarized, and some future work points are suggested.