COVID-19 has changed the way we do business with our customers. It taught us to be more sensitive and genuinely address their needs. But having a personal or emotional connection with customers plays a significant role in this time of uncertainty.

I spoke with Kristi Faltorusso, Founder of CS Real Simple, about how businesses can rise above the challenges posed by COVID-19 and ways to strengthen this emotional connection when there are fewer human interactions (since most of it now takes place through digital channels)?

Background and Career

Kristi spent the first decade of her professional career in Digital Marketing with a heavy focus on SEO, PPC, social, and mobile. Her transition to CS (Customer Success) happened when BrigthEdge opened an office in New York City. Kristi joined BrigthEdge as Sr. CSM. 

“As an expert in digital marketing and a long-time user of BrigthEdge software, working with and supporting BrigthEdge customers has become natural to me,” Kristi shared. 

While at BrigthEdge, she led a global team of CSMs, AMs, professional services, and technical support across the US, Australia, and Japan. 

At IntelliShift, she is responsible for everything related to post-sales. Her core focus is operationalizing CS (Customer Success) throughout the business while at the same time ensuring customers get the maximum support and value both in the solutions and partnerships.

How have businesses changed because of the pandemic?

Businesses have prioritized (customers and employees) safetyness over immediate gains (such as acquiring new logos, cross-selling, or up-selling services). 

It does not mean that customer success has been set aside and not a priority. They still are. However, businesses need to ensure that customers thrive while helping them relieve and lighten the burden caused or posed by this pandemic. 

Providing customers with options (or choices) that will work with their current needs or challenges proves that we care about them. Some of the options or alternatives we may opt-in with our customers (where we would not ordinarily have done so) are:

  1. Allow them for an early exit without paying a termination fee.
  2. Charge minimal fees to continue using the service/platform.
  3. Adjust expirations or terms, pricing concession, or suspension of the account temporarily.

Through these options, our customers will feel heard, valued, cared for, and supported. When our customers feel valued and cared for, they stay loyal to our business. 

Focus on communication

Working from home has become a new normal. Businesses that are not in this set-up before considered it as an added challenge. How can we make sure that we support customers in real-time? 

“Listen to your customers and make sure their feedback is considered and taken into account. Communication is a critical element during this uncertain time,” Kristi notes.

We must also offer various support (digital or human) to customers based on their preferred or chosen communication channel. We should track their journey to understand their challenges, if they are okay, how they are affected, and how we can support them whenever they are.

When you have this mindset (putting the customer first), Kristi said, the customer feels encouraged, helped, and driven. It gives them the fortitude to navigate this difficult situation. In return, they will also help their customers with the same level of priority, positivity, care, and transparency. 

Timeline and priority

In times of uncertainty and crisis, customers trust the business that prioritizes their success, immediate concern, and well-being. How you treat customers at this time reflects in their success or growth, not only in the present, in the future as well.

If you fail to achieve or meet the customer goal, it affects their loyalty, and it will be a steep challenge in keeping the relationship strong. It happens when there is a lack of clarity, and it takes a lot of time to achieve their desired success. 

Here are few things to ask if customers are getting maximum value both from solutions and relationships.

  1. Do the customers acknowledge (or realize) the value they have achieved while using the solution/technology? 
  2. How important the partnership and how much it contributed (one way or another) to their overall success? 
  3. Do they use the solution/technology in their day-to-day operations, or does it fully embedded or implemented as part of their business infrastructure?

If the answer to these three questions is yes: you are assured that you are providing a positive customer experience and how effective or efficient the solution or the value of the partnership is.

Upholding CS mission

Customers have a goal to achieve or a problem that needs solving. They want an assurance that we can support them fully and thoroughly. They also expect that we understood their biggest priority or concern right now (which is their customers). 

Our mission as a CS organization is to strengthen our (organizations) collective efforts to ensure that all resources are fully dedicated, committed, and aligned to helping our customers succeed. 

This pandemic – Kristi reflects – has inspired us all to keep our mission alive, encourage us to work collaboratively, and serve our customers more competently. We should always proactively listen and respond positively to what our customers are telling us.

Conclusion

It does not matter what situation our customers are [in]. It is our problem to ensure that our customers are successful and drive significant success for their business.

We can assume that this pandemic (Covid19) is not our problem – true in essence – but it is our responsibility to make sure our customers succeed! That is more than a promise – it is a commitment. Human qualities such as personal responsibility, accountability, and commitment bring us closer to our customers.

Thanks, Kristi, for taking out of your busy time to speak with me. I look forward to speaking with you in the future! Please stay tuned to our second part interview as we talk about the key to keeping customers satisfied and loyal.

This article was originally published here

Vincent Manlapaz, is a Customer Success Advocate at Strikedeck. He is passionate about Customer Success and is always willing to learn more!
Vincent Manlapaz

Customer Success, Strikedeck, a Medallia company