Ten Ways to Connect with Your Customers in These Difficult Times
Plenty has been written about how difficult things are right now—in terms of business challenges and, more fundamentally, in maintaining the human connections we all need. Those human connections are an essential aspect of how we cope and ultimately thrive in this world. They’re also incredibly important for sustaining business relationships and fulfilling your business goals.
I’d like to present some thoughts on how we all might invest our staying-at-home time to counter a trend toward disconnectedness and make connections with customers (and employees) in new ways. Even if areas of the US and around the world are beginning to loosen some restrictions, it’s still going to be a LONG time before we can get back to “normal” interactions with customers.
So, here are my top ten ideas on how to rehab those customer connections from afar:
Assign your team members to reach out to customers. Facilitate a process to check in, to show the empathy you're feeling for what they are going through, and to get their views and feedback on how you are doing—and what more you can do right now.
Ask your senior-most executives to do outreach. This can make a huge impact for a carefully targeted list of customers. It’s a big ask, but it’s hard to imagine that the leadership team wouldn’t do it if you identify the appropriate customers and the right peer-level executive within the customer organization—and explain your business rationale and context for the outreach.
Develop and execute basic customer engagement training for your organization’s employees. This will benefit any outreach you do and it will improve overall employee engagement (which has a dramatic effect on customer engagement).
Host online focus groups with selected customers and your engineering or product development teams to focus on feedback and requests for product enhancements. You’ll get valuable input—and make connections unattainable otherwise.
Work with your marketing team to rethink how campaigns will be run under the current conditions. The focus, of course, would be on customer engagement. Leveraging the power of Marketing to tell your story will get it to more customers—and have a big impact on your employees too.
Launch a new customer council and run it virtually (at least for the time being). A council of peers operating in a tightly managed forum is invaluable for customer engagement, employee engagement, and feedback.
Host conference calls or webinars to initiate discussion with customers (and key members of your product teams) about lessons learned and best practices in deploying your products and services.
Meet with your user groups or customer communities and identify ways they can help with either physical or digital outreach to customers. This is of great value for your customers and the user groups/communities alike. Organize these by product, functional role or business process—depending on how customers are accustomed to working with you.
Create a 4-quarter customer engagement plan: looking at customer segments, channels, topics, roles, and the current sales pipeline—to help you understand where to focus your energy today and how the current approach will evolve based on loosening of restrictions and the eventual return to face-to-face interaction.
Use social media to collect interesting and impactful anecdotes about how your customers are coping with the current situation, how they are sustaining their business, and how they are contributing to humanity.
In the spirit of collecting anecdotes and promoting the creativity and impact of your organization, please click here to submit a fun and impactful description of what you and your team are doing. I’ll collect these and post them every day or so.
Wishing you good health and safety,