23 Jun Leadership in Times of Crisis Part 1: Keeping Customers Engaged
It is often said that the customer is king – so what are the key focus areas businesses can control to ensure you treat your customers in the best way possible during this time? How do you keep them engaged and offer them the flexibility they need, when they need it the most? As a result of COVID-19, many business leaders had to rethink the ways in which they engage with customers. In Part 1 of our Leadership in Times of Crisis series, our digital leaders provide their insights and strategies on how they have kept customers and clients engaged.
“We are touching base with our customers every week. We don’t usually have the time to do this but we are doing it during this time. In addition, we’re now running a 24/7 model with true customer advisors to help, cranking this up to cover our customer base globally”
– Rob Scott, CEO, Cygilant
With most businesses being forced to close their physical locations, cancel face-to-face meetings, downsize staff and move to virtual communications, it is clear that COVID-19 has challenged our approach to customer care. Whilst some businesses are experiencing a challenging time with customers choosing to focus their sights on areas they deem more important, other businesses have thrived during this time.
“It’s now our 8th week working from home, and we moved quickly to reach out to customers anticipating change. We started to see a significant increase in our app usage, with lots of enquiries coming through and a 137% increase in usage. We had our biggest ever record of 181,000 downloads across April.”
– Addie Wootten, CEO, Smiling Mind
Regardless of whether your customer and client transactions have waxed or waned, deep insights from over 20 tech leaders have shown that, without a doubt, regardless of the difficulties posed by quarantines and operational challenges, staying close to your customers is of utmost importance.
“Our strategy was to actively engage with our clients, not only to let them know that we’re here and operating, but to provide them with alternatives, for example changing tact to different product lines or services that they can use. I have personally been making calls to our major clients.”
– Elizabeth Compton, CEO, Language Loop
This means a range of things to different businesses, but one of the key underlying messages we received from business leaders is to increase the level of communication with your customer base.
Position yourself with empathy and generosity
As important (if not more) as cranking up communication with your customers, was the message that generosity towards them comes a long way. Although business might be quiet at the moment, it’s important to position yourself as an invaluable resource to your clients and customers, showing empathy and compassion during a difficult time.
“These are unique times, a time to be very generous with your customers – it’s important to reach out and ask if they need anything. Offer to help customers with their projects – even if they can’t pay.”
– Rodd Cunico, Group CEO, CIRRUS Holdco
This could be in the form of being a sounding board, offering pro bono work, or through providing them with the education and resources they can truly benefit from whilst navigating the current climate. For example, Doug Morris, CEO of Sharesight, placed an elevated focus on engaging with customers, launching a twice-weekly webinar series. Others have introduced similar programs, all aimed at providing value to their clients and customers.
“We will do an expert series for our customers – bringing in experts like Harvard Professors to come in and talk about topics like negotiations within our industry.”
– Ajay Bhatia, Managing Director, Carsales Australia
Meanwhile, here at The MitchelLake Group, our Founder & CEO Jon Tanner put his hand up to help the network on a pro-bono basis a few weeks ago, which led to some hugely positive outcomes for the community: from connecting great candidates with our vast network for potential job opportunities, to introducing experts from our network to businesses that need specific guidance or expertise.
As previously mentioned, businesses will be seeing varying amounts of customer activity depending on their offering and, as such, some customers will be in better financial condition than others during this time. For those that have been badly hit, providing financial flexibility can make all the difference.
“The conversation does not start with money. It needs to start in place of empathy.”
– Ben Palmer, Co-Founder, Genos
The business leaders we interviewed have adapted their offering to match this need in a number of ways. While some have offered staggered payment options, others have provided discounts to customers, while more still are completely foregoing their usual feels.
For example, as an executive search firm, The MitchelLake Group have provided clients with reduced and flexible project fees. In addition, clients are given the opportunity to undertake a market mapping exercise for a reduced fixed fee, if they are not comfortable embarking on a comprehensive executive search process but still have the need to find the right candidate for a business-critical role.
Meanwhile, Nutanix ANZ, led by Managing Director Lee Thompson, are working closely with their distributors and partners to extend financing partnerships and provide flexible payment terms. Taking things a step further, they have also expanded into new service offerings to support the companies they work with.
“We have introduced our own financing company to help companies move from capital expenditure to operational expenditure.”
– Lee Thompson, Managing Director ANZ, Nutanix