In a Customer Engagement program we conducted last week, more than 90% of the participants responded that the frequency with their customers have come down. For a group of professionals who are used to face to face interaction, the recent situation has thrown a spanner in the wheel. This has impacted productivity by over 90%.
So how do we engage and connect with customers then?
Three months ago, I was clueless. Today, through a series of trial and error, we are trying to salvage our situation.
One of the things that we really messed up was not coming to terms with reality when we started out. This led to expectations being inflated which bred desperation in the team. It took more than a few meetings to admit that we have to let go of goals and targets we started the year with. Painful but necessary.
We are in the business of people. Suddenly, there were no people. Our client interactions had come down by a whooping 80%. God bless the 20% who still picked our calls. But our desperation and lack of preparedness meant we were pushing our agenda really hard.
We hadn’t reckoned that the window offered to us when someone did pick the phone up would be considerably smaller than the good old days. Most of our calls wrapped up in under 20 seconds.
They say ‘Dogs fight when they don’t find food, humans fight when we don’t’. Our meetings and reviews were fast turning into bloodbaths. We were now scared of rejection. Sure, we were determined, but very scared. We were losing control.
Outside, the news seemed bleaker and bleaker everyday. The number of cases were multiplying. But hang on, the number of recoveries were increasing as well. The summer sun was harshly upon us and the gradually growing number of cars gave a semblance of hope that, maybe, things are getting back to normal. What if we were looking at it all wrong?
We regrouped and started to looked deeper into our recoveries.
We decided to focus on the 10% who were still interacting with us. This meant listening to them. While we were drowning in our misfortunes, we had conveniently forgotten they were drowning in theirs. They were struggling too. So we took a step back and asked ourselves some pretty uncomfortable questions.
What exactly is our target? We couldn’t turn 10% to 100% in the next three months. It takes time to build 10 to 20 and 20 to 40%. So, what should we really be targeting?
Our Associate Director, operations raised another question – Targets are fine and we need them but what is our goal in the next 6 months? What are we trying to achieve? What is our purpose? Is it just survival or more? The easy answer is survival but a better answer needed a lot of reflection. Also, once we found our purpose, how do we connect it to our customers’ purpose?
What value are we adding to our customers? Did we know it and if we knew it, did we believe
It? The answer to this question was varying and that was an indication of how misaligned we were. I am not going to lie, this question took about a week. It took a lot of work. It meant putting our ears to the ground and the finger on the pulse of our customers. It still didn’t work 100% and that’s okay, because today we were better than yesterday. Clarity came bearing gifts. Gifts of conviction, courage and more certainty of what we were communicating.
Were we engaging with our customers the right way?
At the moment, there is an information over kill. And, when there is too much information, people stop caring. We had to slow down. We had to create information that people would see value in. Not just advertisement.
We had to move away from pestering and inch towards assurance. We had to be creative. We do a lot of workshops on creativity; it was time to put the money where the mouth is.
Also, it was no more about A call. It was about building up to a conversation, a relation. Step one, step two and then step three. We were so focused on step two that we were just not moving. We fine tuned how we should approach each call, each customer on the other side of the call and tried to respond to one fear at a time.
Today, we have seen a bit of growth. We are looking forward to opening office in August. We are clear that it will take time before we go back to where we were but, here is the thing – maybe we don’t want to go back to where we were. We have new aspirations, a new clarity, better client relations and a really charged up team.
We are ready. We are not waiting for the New Normal. This is our reality.
Author : Samir Limbu
I Train Consultants India Pvt. Ltd.
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