If you are feeling the tactical concerns in your business are sufficiently in hand, you have a unique opportunity to play offense. How your organization behaves during this crisis offers a precious opportunity to deepen trust.
Customers are drowning in broadcast email communications, and while these emails can be valuable, companies who want to signal their deep care can go even further.
Customers routinely assess the level of goodness of a given company, discerning an organization’s self-interest versus its genuine care (i.e., right-minded versus right-hearted). It’s one thing to communicate that you care through an email, and another thing entirely when the CEO overtly demonstrates deep care in skillful ways.
I suspect most of you routinely spoke with your customers when your business was much smaller, but as it scaled, competition for your attention increased. As a result, these conversations have become more sporadic. While your front-line teams routinely communicate with your customers, there is arguably no better time than now to demonstrate your sincere care by making time, even if just one hour, every week to connect with customers.
Explore your customer’s world
Explore your key customers’ challenges, needs and concerns. Where is their organization challenged? Where are they in greatest need of support?
While it could be valuable to ask them how you might help, sharing specific ideas can make a powerful impression during a crisis. Having prepared ideas in advance demonstrates your sincerity, but also activates them as a thinking partner for envisioning alternatives.
Prepare by thinking about processes/tools you are using internally, personal connections you could make, or opportunities you’ve picked up in other conversations that you could share. Each additional conversation with customers will surface new ideas for your solutions toolbelt.
Transparently share your own situational assessment
Now take the opportunity to disclose how the crisis is impacting your organization. Share how you are pivoting to meet customers’ needs and what else the company could be doing to make their lives easier.
Also explore how the customer believes your organization could become stronger moving forward (e.g., communication, processes, tactical items, innovations).
“Now’s the opportunity to disclose your experience of the crisis and how the customers believe you could improve moving forward.” Scott Zimmerman, Founder Adaptive Edge
Ask if what is transpiring during the crisis has opened their eyes to other potential product or service needs. Their sharing may inform meaningful pivots or spark new ideas you may not have considered internally.
Affirm what is valuable in what is shared. If you have trouble finding something useful in their comments, reflect back what you heard, and simply empathize as well as express your appreciation for what they shared.
Turn your attention outward
The act of making time to focus on your customers’ concerns, rather than just your own, puts you one step ahead of most CEOs. Ensuring you follow up on promises made in these meetings sets you further apart. Make sure to track your promises in a single document as well as circling back to tell them how their feedback is informing changes in your organization.
When the customer – even employees and prospects – see how your actions demonstrate you care about their situation, including being influenced by their feedback, you are deepening the relational bond in meaningful ways. Maintaining this a contribution-mindset versus the temptation to narrowly focus on your own concerns during the crisis will be a force-multiplier for your organization coming out of this crisis.
For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.