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COVID-19: A time to rethink the way you connect with customers?

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COVID-19 has disrupted business in most industries, across the world. Many organisations will not meet their financial goals for the upcoming quarter due to the restrictions that have been placed on the movement of people and goods; and the impact this has on supply chains and customer demand.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to hinder operations, many organisations are putting business continuity plans in place. While it’s difficult to predict the trajectory of the pandemic and thus plan many months ahead, sales and marketing managers can take simple, proactive steps to maintain valued customer relationships and build increased resilience to ongoing volatility.

In short – there has never been a better time to let your customers know that you care about their wellbeing on both a business and personal level; and that you are committed to doing what you can to keep their organisations running as smoothly as possible, now and over the long term.

Seven key questions to ask

1. Are your sales and marketing teams able to weather the change?

You may have a strong customer success strategy in place – but this may lose relevance over the next few months. Now, it’s time to look inward and ask whether your sales and marketing teams can adapt to new working conditions and customer requirements; and whether they have the skills, expertise, tools, systems and attitudes to offer your customers the unique support they need on unchartered waters.

As colleagues find new ways to connect and collaborate virtually, this is an ideal time to strengthen the alignment between your sales and marketing functions. Now, more than ever, sales and marketing need to pool resources and support each other – making sure both teams agree on shared goals and maintain a clear understanding of business priorities.

2. Are you staying in touch?

At a time of social distancing, businesses need a contingency plan for engaging with customers. Thanks to all the remote communication channels available to us today, it’s still possible to maintain a human connection without meeting face-to-face. Your sales and marketing agents can continue to engage, collaborate with and support customers via email, phone contact, online videoconferencing, instant messaging and multiple other remote channels.

However, be wary not to spam people! Rather, remind your customers that you’re here for them. Reassure them that the lines of communication are open.

3. Are you adding value?

When you do reach out to your customers, make sure you have something valuable or genuine to communicate. If your customer’s business is under pressure, how can you lighten their load?

Importantly, you need to ensure that your proposition is relevant. Take a close look at what you’re offering and consider whether you could tailor your proposition to offer your customers more value in the current volatile and uncertain environment. For example, if you’re offering a subscription service, you could potentially provide an extended period free-of-charge. Assess whether there are any valuable new features in the pipeline that you could bring forward or offer as a beta version that will give your clients more flexibility for remote workers. You may also be able to increase the level of support you offer your customers over the short-term to help their businesses weather the change.

4. Do you know what your customers need right now?

You should also ask whether your customers have any unique requirements as they deal with the pandemic fallout. Now, more than ever, it is important to make sure that you gain an understanding of how your customers are feeling, the challenges they are facing and how you can help.

This is not the time to focus on pitching, selling and making a profit! Over the coming weeks and months, you need to make the time to really listen to your customers. Engage them in conversations, at their convenience, so that you can find out how they are doing; and gather insights that you can put into action to make a real difference.

5. Can you soften the blow?

While you may need to slim down your offering right now, try to do this in a way that inconveniences your customers as little as possible. The last thing you want to do is spend just a few months damaging relationships you’ve spent years nurturing.

If you have to cancel an event, for example, offer to hold it digitally at a reduced fee, if possible – or offer a full refund. This way, when things get back to normal, your customers won’t feel like you just left them in the lurch when times were tough. Take care of your customers now and they’ll be more likely to take care of you over the long-term.

6. Are you agile enough?

As the situation evolves, your sales and marketing personnel need to be given the tools and guidance that will enable them to be as flexible as possible – and adapt quickly to new business challenges and opportunities. Give your team clear direction, so they know what flexibility they have to adjust elements such as pricing, trial periods or validity of offers to suit customer needs at this time. It will be very difficult for your team to be flexible if you expect them to work to the same policies as before, with no new guidance.

It’s also ideal to have a strategy for scaling your sales resources up and down to suit fluctuating business demands, perhaps as some of your markets go into lockdown or begin to recover.

7. Are you taking advantage of all tools and resources?

This is the ideal time for your sales and marketing teams to leverage the digital technologies at their disposal to connect and collaborate with customers and each other. Ideally, everyone should be set up to work remotely, where possible; and you should have the systems in place to share content securely, as well as monitor workflows for optimum productivity and efficiency.

During these uncertain times, it’s important to be flexible and understand that there are many different ways of working. If you need to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and customer needs but lack the skills, systems and processes to meet those objectives, you may want to consider outsourcing.

While outsourcing doesn’t suit every company, the right outsource partner can not only offer flexible skills and resourcing, they can also provide you with access to purpose-built sales tools and technologies, which you may not have time or budget to purchase right now.

The road ahead

Now is a time to think innovatively and creatively about adjusting your marketing and sales approaches to truly add value to your customers through the challenges that lie ahead – on every level.

Rather than focusing on educating and selling – focus on connecting, listening and co-operating. Use these trying times as an opportunity to get even closer to your customers and mutually support each other through this difficult period.

If you lack the resources to maintain those connections with existing or prospective customers, we have a large team of inbound and outbound specialists working remotely, available to help you fill resource gaps, adapt to changing customer needs and provide expert, responsive customer support. Contact us if you would like to discuss your requirements and find out how we might help.

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