Paris and Chicago were fifty degrees and rainy the day I heard back from one of our toughest clients, the head of a large French multinational corporation. His email made me realize we had more in common than I ever thought possible, much more than just the weather.
A few weeks previous, he had given us an unbelievably hard time — questioning our value, asking for extra services, being brutally abrupt. His words on that balmy day, however, were completely different.
He wrote that Showpad’s team was “in his heart during this time of extraordinary difficulty, because when you choose a partner, it is not just to move forward during those times when the sun is shining — it is also to be on the same side when adversity and challenges are coming.”
It wasn’t the praise that struck me, it was the truth of his statement. Somehow, through all the difficult conversations, our companies had become true partners. And partners support each other, no matter the challenge.
I believe remarkable customer experiences happen when people rise above the expected. You set aside what is important to you and, instead, really listen to the other person. Partnerships grow when you show you are committed. This is the long game that too many companies miss.
CX expectations are higher than what short-term perspective can satisfy. You have to stay three, five and 10 months ahead. The customer experience has always been very important — with or without COVID-19. And while the new normal may require workflow changes, your strategic priorities should remain in place.
Delivering remarkable CX means protecting our customers when they least expect it.
But what does this look like in practice?
As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And this holds true for your customers.
Customers feel loyalty. They talk about their experience with others. They feel understood, valued and heard. They feel the joy of working with you, choosing you, buying your products, experiencing your services, investing their time with you. There’s an emotional connection. They trust you.
So how can you ensure your customers feel that partnership and commitment during this time? For me, exploration begins with curiosity. Here are six questions to ask yourself as you strive to protect your customer and, in so doing, elevate the customer experience.
Question #1: What really matters to your customer?
At Showpad, we have customers at both ends of the spectrum. We have customers who are severely impacted by the pandemic – they don’t even want to talk to a vendor right now. And on the other hand, we have customers that are growing, because this pandemic has brought them a wealth of opportunity.
Tailor your engagement with customers based on their needs.
At the start of the pandemic, we did a customer impact analysis, categorized them and then developed an outreach plan specific to each situation. We tailored our actions and communication to the customer’s needs after a deep portfolio review. What are their challenges in the new normal? Is the priority two months ago the same or different? What matters most right now?
It’s tedious to refocus because every customer is different, but there’s no immediate prescription to fix this. It takes work. It takes empathy. And it is absolutely necessary during these times.
I spoke to a customer who lost someone to the virus. There is nothing I can say or do except to give them my heartfelt grief and let them know we are there for them.
Question #2: How will you guide customers through the buying process?
The buying process is changing. Investment decisions are in flux. How do you navigate customers through sudden, drastic change? Lean on your customer journey framework — and then guide them.
Take the stress out of the buying process. Help them be more effective with a digital selling perspective. Show you support them, don’t just tell them. Success comes by way of how we show up in times of disruption, just like what we are experiencing right now. Here is where we find sustainable growth and build trust. How can they maximize operational efficiency? How do you manage a remote workforce to drive CX? How do you deliver remarkable experiences consistently?
Take this time to differentiate your brand and capitalize on the success you’ve already achieved. Drive the experience that matters most to your customer.
Question #3: What is your communication protocol?
Focus on internal customers first — your team. And then, blossom this to your external customers. As they say, take care of your team – and in turn, your team will take care of your customers.
Then, over communicate. Change the workflow if you have to, but strive to improve the communication process at every touch point. If you don’t have a communication protocol, build it now.
Really listen to what customers have to say. Listening technology, social media monitoring, surveys, monitoring customer reviews and market segmentation are great ways to understand the voice of your customer. Nothing, however, beats an actual conversation.
Build customer confidence through content that uses their language. Share notes from customer conversations across your sales and marketing team. Learn from each other. Enable one another to deliver a great customer experience.
Question #4: Who is responsible for remarkable CX?
Most would agree that customer success starts with our understanding of the customer. So who’s job is this? The obvious answer is the customer success team. But, pinning CX on one department is a very limited, and dangerous, view.
The customer sees far more than what we show them. They see our values in one-on-one conversations. They learn about our mission through the causes we support. They experience our brand in the decisions our board of directors make.
Here’s a look at CX from various levels of an organization.
The board. How many times have you heard brands talk about being customer-centric? Yet, 70% of company boards do not have people with CX experience, according to a report from Dimension Data. The report says this is “where companies talk about CX, but fail to deliver on it.” Why? It is much harder to adapt to the voice of your customer when that voice is not recognized during the strategic planning process.
The CEO. At Showpad, our CEO is phenomenal. He proactively manages communication operations with direct reports every day and communicates with the entire team. He reaches out to investors on industry trends. He makes sure our team members and their families are healthy. I cannot expect anything better than proactive communications.
He’s also leading the charge to fine tune our business continuity plan on who will take over if someone in a senior-level position gets sick, to ensure that we can still meet the needs of our customers. He is actively preparing our organization for the future of work, pushing us to think about what’s next. How do you adapt to the new reality? How do you prepare and manage a remote workforce? If that day comes, and it will come at scale, how will you be prepared?
The executive team. Lead by example. If there is a hit, the leaders must take the hit first. Servant leadership has never been more important. We should not expect our teams to do things without our leaders doing them first.
The frontlines. Focus on quality interactions. Enable customer-facing team members with a deep understanding of the customer. Show them how to inspire confidence and understand customer challenges with tailored messages and approaches.
Question #5: What financial concessions will you make?
Discounting is expected in times of crisis and raging market fluctuations. Many companies surviving the Great Recession did so because they yielded to customer’s financial situations.
Be strategic about discounting so that it doesn’t become learned behavior or mistaken as a lack of confidence in your product. Pricing is a market positioning issue. How you handle pricing is an extension of your brand. Consider your approval process, a discount guideline and financing options.
With more than 700,000 jobs lost in March, the principal takeaway here is understanding the industry of your customer. What can you do to help them endure and thrive?
Question #6: How will you measure remarkable CX?
According to the Temkin Group, companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in customer experience. SaaS companies can expect to increase revenue by $1 billion.
These figures come from micro-engagements that lead to customers feeling and realizing success. What defines success for your customers? How will you impact those factors? And when this happens, how will you measure that success?
Be your customers’ greatest defender
We will be remembered by how we have served our customers. While we all feel a sense of uncertainty right now, one thing remains unchanged. When customers know your company is there for them, they will become hopeful and uplifted. You will be the one to protect them over time, through good and bad. And ultimately be the partner to help them thrive.