An American Printer Commentary
By Andy & Julie Plata
We’re all making history in 2020. We’re living through an era where one shared event has overturned the way of life of everyone on the globe. That may happen once in a generation at most. When it does, our way of thinking is never the same again, individually or as a community.
That includes how we run our businesses. It’s no longer a question of holding on until normal circumstances come back to the marketplace. A lot of the things we’re getting used to these days are becoming those normal circumstances and are no longer temporary measures.
When we talk about overturned lives, we’re not just talking about you and your company. We’re talking about all of your stakeholders as well. In this article, we’ll be focusing on how to manage the ongoing relationships with one of your most important stakeholders, your customers.
How to Manage Your Customer Relationships on an Ongoing Basis
There are two sides to continuous customer management. It involves tightly integrated IT systems as well as strategies for the human side of things. We’ll look at both topics in this commentary.
Most businesses have applications for managing customer relationships. Still, as with other software, they may never have found the time to make the most of them.
Writing in Forbes, management consultant Gene Marks points to ways that small businesses are improving their customer management systems. The goal is more effective relationships with customers while enabling more adaptive ways of working.
Many firms are more closely integrating their websites and customer databases. When a customer completes an online form, they trigger automated workflows, prompting responses and follow-ups as needed. Integrated workflow supports the trend toward working from home by keeping everyone in the loop and reminding everyone of timelines.
Another underused feature in many customer databases is the ability to set up and distribute mass communications. Tailored, customized bulk emails or text messages enable businesses to stay in touch with customers on an ongoing basis. We’ll talk about what to say in these messages below.
Gene Marks is also noticing that many small businesses are streamlining the interaction between their mail, calendar, office, and customer management applications. Between all the video meetings we now schedule and online customer interactions, integrating these tools for one-stop shopping saves businesses time and money.
The People Side of Continuous Customer Management Is Vital
The people side of continuous customer management has always been vital to long-term business success. Even so, in 2020, it’s been stood on its head. The pandemic has dragged on longer than expected, and we now face a sharp economic downturn in its wake.
In the business-to-business setting, customers face the same market conditions as their suppliers. They, too, have less revenue, which means they’re trimming their budgets in the same way. They’re looking to contain their discretionary spending. That may include their business with your organization, so you need to show them why your offerings are indispensable.
The Harvard Business Review has published a framework for adapting to an endemic COVID-19 business environment. It has quickly caught on with business leaders looking to update their ongoing customer relationships. Harvard has structured its recommended strategies around the acronym HEART.
HEART stands for:
Humanizing entails conveying to your customers on an ongoing basis that your company grasps that their world has changed. Customers also need to feel that your business is in it for the long run and not desperate or taking advantage of their struggles.
In a professional tone, express genuine concern for people who have been personally affected by the coronavirus. Use your cross-media tools to regularly communicate how you have incorporated best practices for health, safety, and economic challenges into your business model. The Harvard Business Review points to your social media accounts and customer email lists as ideal vehicles to get this message in front of your clients in today’s onscreen environment.
Ideal Vehicles to Get This Message in Front of Your Clients
Educating means communicating how your business model and customer connections work as we transition through the phases of gradual reopening. The Harvard Business Review encourages business owners to be proactive. It’s better not to sound like your measures are merely reactions to compliance rules.
For example, Apple made the voluntary decision to close its retail stores while working hard to make sure that their customers knew how to access online services. As local authorities announced lockdown orders, they were way ahead of the game.
As early as possible, when restrictions lift, explain how the new rules will be put to work in your company to protect clients, staff, and suppliers. Proactive communication shows your customers that your team has invested the necessary resources to ensure a safe working environment.
Assuring is about always reiterating your company’s values through action. Show them that the reasons they’ve always chosen your business haven’t changed.
Be specific with each customer, letting them see exactly how you’ll reliably deliver their mission-critical services and products. Demonstrate that your value proposition is more robust than any virus.
Revolutionizing calls for you and your company to identify and seize opportunities for positive change in the way you do business.
Demonstrate to your customers that, while you are maintaining the best of your traditional values, you’re also adopting the best of recent innovations.
Suppose you’re moving processes online to support social distancing. You might show customers how this will make doing business with you easier or how it will provide them with new statistics that weren’t available offline.
Lately, hope can feel tough to glimpse. Showing customers improvements in services or products that could only have arisen in these conditions will give them a lift. That goes back to humanizing customer interactions.
Calls for You and Your Team to Go the Extra Mile
Tackling calls for you and your team to go the extra mile. As we’ve seen, showing customers that you’re ahead of the game in terms of compliance is part of the strategy. As you implement your revolutionary changes, find ways to configure them that go beyond health and safety to make your business offering better than ever.
Talk to your customers about all the things you’ve learned the hard way in our current business climate, especially permanent improvements in your business model. Prove to them that your company’s experiences during this period are going to make your services and products better than they’ve ever been.
Working proactively to enhance ongoing relationships with customers is more vital than ever in our transformed business environment.
Sharing is part of the humanizing strategy we discussed above. We invite you to tell us about insights you or your associates have gained from working with customers in these transformed times. You can post them in the comments section below.
We believe that new opportunities can develop from challenging situations. Therefore, we will continue offering new insights we gain for renewing your customer relationships and gaining new clients.
Empowering the print message for the digital age,
Andy & Julie Plata
Co-CEOs, American Printer’s parent company, OutputLinks Communications Group
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