While small businesses struggle to make sense of how to operate during no contact, quarantine orders, there is a great deal of uncertainty with how to handle much needed NEW business. Closing deals and signing contracts is a critical concern among business owners not just for growth but for survival; yet for customers, it’s probably the lowest priority or concern.
Let’s face it, committing to anything right now is a risk because there is no end in sight and business owners aren’t sure of their own future.
Respectively, top concerns are when and where will we get funding, how will we maintain our employees and how will we recover from this massive shutdown –and most importantly, when will business resume?
Depending on the industry, any pending sales that were on the brink of closing prior to the quarantine has been put on hold or put OFF – indefinitely in some cases.
So, what SHOULD you be doing right now?
For centuries, there have been strategies used by business leaders that have weathered the storms of uncertainty and recessions, and even – depressions. We cover these ‘tried and true’ strategies in our new on-demand small business training series: RETHINK. REINVENT. REBUILD. How to survive and thrive the downturn modeling the historical patterns of great leaders. If you haven’t applied for this FREE, no risk training – please do so NOW.
In the meantime, rather than call customers and ASK for sales or ask when they’ll pay their bills or even when they will place their next order; instead, here’s a list of immediate customer outreach strategies you can apply in the next 48 hours so that you stay in rapport, stay relevant and let them know just how much you care about them.
What you shouldn’t do is adhere to a ‘that’s our policy’ attitude. Being inflexible or unwilling to adapt to the challenges your clients face is extremely risky. This will not only PROVE to be a failing strategy but a disastrous one at that. Here is what you should be doing or watch the brief video below:
- Be Empathetic
Getting back to the basics of Rapport 101 means to empathize with the situation and ask your client if they are ok? Of course, make sure they are well and ask how are they feeling? Putting their health first should be your primary concern. Tell them you understand their struggles and can only imagine what they are going through. Ask if they need anything? Being genuine puts you in a position of gratitude and understanding but more importantly in a position to solve problems and hear their concerns.
- Be Proactive
Actively preempt foreseeable changes to their contract or order so you can help in making any necessary adjustments? Ask your customer to be honest and realistic with their situation. Ask, what do we need to consider now or in the future to prevent challenges? The goal here is to make a plan to address concerns with THEM to form a plan. Let them know your ultimate goal is to help them get through this.
- Be a Good Listener
It goes without saying but always remember when your client speaks – listen with intent. Don’t share your problems and discuss what you are dealing right out of the gate – although they may care, customers don’t want to hear that right now. This is about them not YOU. Really listen and HEAR their concerns. If they just say they are ‘dealing with it’, proactively ask how they will be affected by this so you can help. Probing with concern will get them to talk and help you understand their needs on a deeper level. If you do this, you can prepare for changes as well and it shows that you truly care about them.
- Be Engaging
The biggest questions we are getting right now is what to say when contacting customers or how often should you contact them? Use this time as an opportunity to show reciprocity. Offer resources, information, payment plans, contract adjustments, solutions – whatever puts you in contact with the customer communicating their options in advance will serve you well. Not to mention, they need help or resources not sales pitches right now. While in most cases, 12 marketing touches is the norm, in times of crisis’ – the number jumps to 16x. You can text, email, send letters, thank you’s, etc… and we highly recommend facetime or video chat to stay connected when possible. BUT, you must make sure to balance your outreach. Too MUCH contact can be overwhelming. Too LITTLE and you could be forgotten. Genuine outreach and consistency are the keys. Don’t bombard your customers while they are all dealing with their own chaos that’s been inflicted upon them. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Be Prepared
Now is the time to anticipate changes in customer orders and contracts – expect that it WILL happen, it’s just a matter of when. Being prepared can mitigate the fall out even if you’re one of the lucky ones that are prospering from the crisis. The fact is, if you’ve done a good job of listening, you can create a contingency plan with your customer that benefits both sides. Being flexible and NOT adhering to stringent ‘company policies’ goes a long way. Changes and cancellations can be devastating but not as tragic than if you weren’t aware of them in advance. Partnering with your client on a work-around to address upcoming changes can put you back in the driver’s seat.
- Be Your Customers Hero
Upon implementing the steps of this process, including creating solutions for your client proactively, reaching out to preempt their challenges and helping them achieve their goals will drive a great customer experience even during times of uncertainty. As a result, you’ll show your worth, your customer will appreciate your efforts and you’ll be remembered as your customer’s HERO. There is nothing more important than to genuinely care about your clients needs right now. Be congruent with your values and principles so that you will be known for exceptional customer care when business resumes.
The payoff for implementing these customer outreach strategies are HUGE and worth the investment. You simply cannot afford to make mistakes and lose business at a time when everyone is stressed, emotions are high, business and employee livelihoods are threatened. Your only option is to go the extra mile and be the hero – save the day and leave your customer a raving fan. When business resumes, you don’t want your head on a chopping block because prior to the recession you provided poor customer service.
If you’d like to read further on this topic, there is no worse time than to make these – 3 DEAL Killing Mistakes when Interacting with Customers during COVID-19