Putting your customer at the core of your business agenda is not a marketing exercise, it is how you gain loyalty and revenue growth. This has never been a more important focus than now, in this most disruptive unsettling year. With so much uncertainty around us, now is not the time to put the customer experience efforts on pause. Now is the time to put your customer resources on full throttle.
According to McKinsey, “Being ‘customer centric’ is well established. But competing pressures and priorities mean that the customer can often be sidelined. Top companies that sustain a comprehensive focus on the customer…can generate economic gains ranging from 20 to 50 percent of the cost base.”1
The Pandemic has separated us from family, friends, work colleagues and our customers with the added negative bonus of destabilizing our economy. As difficult as this has been, on the professional end it is a test of our standing as genuine partners to our customers, which will affect our organization’s ultimate financial viability.
“Focusing on customer experience is a winning strategy in a recession,” McKinsey states, and there is precedence. They reported “3x higher returns for shareholders during 2007-2009 recession from customer experience leaders.”2
About a month or so into lock-down I had a 1:1 video call with one of my customers, a senior executive of a large retail chain. The point of the call was simply to check in, to see how he was doing, and to see if my team could be helpful to him and his organization. This was not a discussion about sales! Once we caught up on all of the personal pleasantries, he told me that we were the only vendor that had reached out and he appreciated it. He felt we were true partners, simply for showing interest and authentic concern. He then volunteered how we could potentially provide new services for them as they re-organized due to the Pandemic.
This same conversation occurred repeatedly over the next few months with multiple customers. Connection and genuine concern during disruption is gold (and by the way, it feels good).
As you sit in your at-home-makeshift office ask yourself, “how are we making our customer’s job easier or improved despite our separation, and how can we help plan for an elastic unpredictable future?” Keeping your internal organization locked in on working from the customer’s point of view is a critical component of this because your customer partnership is determined by the entire organization, not just the sales team. Keep your employees talking about the value in looking from the outside in, get innovative on agility, and facilitate a cross-organizational energy of ideas on how best to help your customer’s succeed through 2020 and into next year.
Here are a few simple ways to begin:
- Stay engaged (obviously). Keep your monthly 1:1s or other team meetings on the calendar and by all means, use video so your customer can see you.
- Offer a (free) consultative strategy session, virtually. This Pandemic will end…at some point. Re-imagining the business roadmap as that turn happens is a smart move. Help your customer put some fresh eyes on what that future can look like and make sure your plan is a plan that accounts for unexpected change. We know now that flexibility to adjust easily when faced with unforeseen events is critical!
- Don’t push off your Executive Business Reviews as something you’ll get to when this is “all over.” Instead, keep your meeting and review cycles in tact online. It is a healthy way to keep you and your customers talking about how you’re progressing positively together based on tangible performance data, even in this unsettled period.
- Be a champion of an internal customer-first culture. Think about ways to help define what that means to your organization and work with the teams across all disciplines to develop an actionable plan to turn the altruistic message into a winning plan for your business.
- Empathy is everything. If you have it, find purposeful ways to show it. If you don’t have it… maybe you’re in the wrong role!
Knowing the value that a customer-centric position can have on loyalty and the ensuing revenue impact means we have to embrace it. Now is not the time to retreat from customer activities; take this disruption and turn it into an opportunity.
Our customers have never needed us so much, and doing right by them is both honorable and the way to create a long-term allegiance no marketing budget can buy.
With over 20 years of experience in leadership roles in the technology industry, Ms. Carroll is recognized as an executive who develops and articulates vision and solutions from both technical and business perspectives. She has an established history of building a culture of collaboration, trust, and respect among IT and the business. A speaker on the topics of digital transformation, cloud computing, IT utility adoption, and team culture, she has been published in CIOInsight and BizTech magazine, and was named a 2010 Computer World Premier 100 IT Leader. She is committed to sharing, listening, challenging, and shaping the discussion around transformational business success.
Currently Ms. Carroll serves as the VP, Customer Success & Lifecycle at TenFour, a NJ headquartered IT Infrastructure Utility Provider. In this role, she leverages her industry expertise to provide insight and guidance to enterprise business executives to facilitate digital transformation and business value realization. She is responsible for creating a differentiated customer experience across the breadth of TenFour’s client portfolio, focused on the customer’s business priorities and outstanding service delivery. Prior to joining TenFour, Ms. Carroll had a noteworthy tenure in a variety of senior IT Leadership positions at the United States Golf Association, most recently as the Managing Director for Information Technology where she led the infrastructure, business resilience, security, operations, and development disciplines.