5 rules for customer engagement in challenging times


Originally published on Destination CRM.

The current pandemic is affecting the way just about every industry does business. Thousands of businesses have been forced to shutter completely, while others need to create completely new workarounds for making ends meet. For those that are fortunate enough to be operating, evolving customer expectations are transforming the way marketers, salespeople, and other customer-facing teams interact with the customer pipeline. Customers want to know that the businesses they engage with really understand them and are interacting with them in a meaningful way.

Sales is about so much more than the dotted line, and in this environment the customer’s end-to-end journey with you is beyond crucial. Here we outline a few best practices to help guide your customer journey through this challenging time.

Take a beat…

In a time of chaotic crisis, the “fight or flight” mentality can take hold. If your first inclination is to “fight” you might get a bit panicked and start making decisions without fully thinking them through. Make sure the decisions you’re making when it comes to your customers are the right ones and have been vetted by all appropriate parties—marketing teams, sales teams, management, and the like. Ideally, these teams are already running on a unified platform as is, so this should be easy to do in theory. Take the time to be introspective here and figure out what you’re going to learn from this moment.

…But don’t sit still

Although giving this time its due caution and respect is important, this too shall pass and businesses that are thinking about how they will hit the ground running in the aftermath will come out ahead. As a result, now is the time to rethink how you’re connecting with customers, and the tools you are using to do so. This includes integrating sales and marketing for a cohesive communications strategy. Don’t spend so much time worrying about what to do or how to communicate that you don’t do or communicate anything. Think of your company as a Formula One race car and your people as your pit crew. The more well-trained and faster the pit crew, the quicker the car can get back in the race.

Focus on the relationship

When you do make your moves, know that selling during this time is of course challenging, but worse, pushing a hard sell right now will come off extremely tone-deaf. Take a step back and remember that people, including your customers, want to know you’re in it with them and that you’ll adapt with the situation. Focus on the connection versus the close, including re-prioritizing sales initiatives and revising marketing campaigns to reflect the tone of the situation. Now is the most important time to connect with your customers on a personal level; you’ll feel better having done it, and it will be better for your business.

Maximize each touchpoint

Every time you reach out to a customer—whether through a marketing email, a customer service engagement, or the point of sale itself—make sure you are using every single opportunity to engage in a more meaningful way, including leveraging tools that you already have in place, like CRM. Remember that you can be very social with CRM and can use it to build stronger connections. If your CRM is doing its job, it should provide you with a wealth of information on your customers and allow you to tailor each of these touchpoints in the right way for them. Be aware of the challenges your customers face to connect with them on a new level and in a new way.

Stay in touch

It sounds simple, but during these chaotic times, there can be an inclination to retreat until things normalize. Not so. It’s important to understand that you can’t go silent and re-emerge when this passes. Your customers want to know you understand and that you support them in good times and in bad. CRM is built to help people do what’s required to connect with customers—virtual connections and an email is still the No. 1 way people in business are connecting, so use it now.

Now is the time to analyze every customer interaction; cut out the clutter. You’ll likely realize that a lot of the connections you were making before this outbreak were not always meaningful. COVID-19 is changing business everywhere by changing communications. Use your CRM to be the lifeline and keep your business and others moving ahead. Businesses that are paralyzed by the fear of the unknown will be struggling to keep up once social distancing is a thing of the past. We will get back to business as normal, albeit in a new normal, so companies must keep moving forward.

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