Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing businesses big and small to work twice as hard to stay afloat.
For those of us who remember the dot-com boom and bust in the late 90s, or the housing crash in ‘08, we know major events like these don’t just resolve themselves overnight. However, I’ll be the first to admit that while I was working during both those major events, what we’re witnessing with the coronavirus is unlike anything the world has ever seen before—and the journey back to a normal state of affairs, living, and doing business is going to be a long one.
That said, now is not the time to rest on your laurels. Especially if you are a business owner, now is the time to think hard about how you can continue setting your customers up for success so that your company can survive in the near future and thrive well beyond it.
Here are a few ways I would encourage business owners to support their customers:
1. Make communication easy and convenient.
Especially during a time like this, the single most effective thing you could do is ensure there are open lines of communication.
Customers—whether you are selling enterprise software to a small handful of large clients, or consumer software to tens of thousands of customers—are always going to have questions, have problems they need help solving, or want more information regarding one of your products. In addition, every customer is going to want to communicate differently. For example, we have an easy access Resource Center on our website where customers can easily search for information and answers to their questions. But some will want to pick up the phone. Others will want to use text messaging or collaborate over Slack, Teams or Google platforms. Email. Social media. The list goes on.
Which means it’s your job to ask the question, “What is their preference?” And then do your best to adjust. Actively listen to your front line employees on what communication methods are working and those that are not.
2. Speak as directly as possible to your customer’s unique pain points and what they’re currently struggling with.
One of the most effective ways to make a customer happy is to walk into the conversation with a very deep understanding of the types of problems they are most likely experiencing.
If your small business is only a few years old, then the majority of your visionary conversations should be happening on a one-to-one basis. You are not going to “scale” in the sense of trying to talk to as many different types of customers as possible. Your goal should be to focus on a specific customer segment and pinpoint the unique challenges of their business for that segment. Some of these problems will be technology-specific, others will be related to the industry they’re in and the types of decision-makers they also have to manage, etc.
Document all of these customer pain points and take the time to train your teams on how to speak directly to each of them. This is what will make your customers feel heard, understood, and taken care of.
3. Formalize processes that ensure customers aren’t churning.
Every business should have 30-day and 90-day check-ins for their newest customers.
In our case, we track all of our customers in a CRM so that we can get a clear sense of who has just recently started using our service, who the account owner is, and what activity is taking place. Is this customer going to need to get additional approvals in order to integrate our product into their business? How long do we estimate that will take? What other information might help them gain internal support, faster? How many internal reviews do we expect them to conduct? And so on.
Being able to track and keep tabs on how customers are beginning their relationships with us provides a tremendous amount of insight into how else we can be helpful. Customer success by an onboarding team is just the beginning of the journey.
4. Know which problems you need to solve, versus which problems would be nice to solve.
Every customer is going to have different priorities.
One of the questions you constantly need to be asking is whether you are working to solve a mission-critical problem for the customer, or you are solving a “that’d be great, thanks” problem.
The reason this is so important is that a lot of businesses will work very hard to solve less important problems, only to feel blindsided when the customer comes back disappointed. From the perspective of the business, they are putting in the hours and working hard. From the eyes of the customer, however, these hours could have been better spent.
If you are ever confused or want clarity around which problems the customer needs solving the most, just ask them. More times than not, customers know exactly where their pain points are—and the more effort you put forth to focusing solely on high-priority problems, the more likely they are going to trust you and stick around for the long term.