Why digital tools are the answer to staying close to customers during the COVID-19 outbreak

We are all facing the reality of living in the grasp of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Whilst there remain many uncertainties relating to the disease itself, one thing is clear; COVID-19 will have a direct impact on business and the economy.

Businesses across the world are reviewing their contingency plans and preparing to take countermeasures such as enforced home working.

The impact of such countermeasures could potentially have a detrimental impact on sales operations, including the cancellation of meetings and events, supply chain disruption, changing customer behaviours and a reduction in product/service demand.

In its latest review entitled COVID-19: Implications for Business, McKinsey advises that one of the key ways businesses can respond to the outbreak is to stay close to customers.

Digital technologies offer the answer to maintaining customer relationships, minimising disruption and maintaining resilience for the duration of the Coronavirus outbreak

In difficult times, it is more important than ever to maintain or boost the customer experience.

As Shep Hyken puts it in a recent Forbes article titled How To Communicate With Customers During Tumultuous Times: “…our economies worldwide will return to normal. It may take months—or even longer. In the meantime, don’t erode the relationships you have with your best customers. Exploit the opportunity to show them you are there for them and build even stronger relationships.”

Staying close to customers during the COVID-19 outbreak

1. Update intelligence on a daily basis

When events are unfolding with astounding speed, as we are seeing with the Coronavirus, the customer picture changes on a daily basis.

Tracking and filtering what is happening within customer segments is vital. Getting the latest real-time news about customers triaged from the widest possible range of data sources is the best way to stay ahead.

Likewise tracking structural changes, company financials and risk data will become increasingly important as the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds – either from being poised to assist customers that are struggling with new solutions to problems or in order to prioritise prospecting and sales outreach time on high growth companies rather than ones in decline.

2. Beware of hype cycles

News organisations and social media feeds often focus on what’s new rather than the big picture, and they sometimes don’t distinguish between hard facts, soft facts, and speculation, especially during times of crisis when fake news becomes even more prevalent.

It is important that businesses have access to reliable insights and intelligence about customers and markets during the Coronavirus outbreak so that they act in the most appropriate way possible, respond quickly to events and proactively maintain customer relationships.

3. Cut through the white noise

With news cycles swamped with virus updates, staying on top of customer news and how COVID-19 is influencing the marketplace becomes an even more difficult task.

Digital sales tools will help cut through the white noise by enabling teams to track and filter quickly what is going on within the customer ecosystem (both as a result of COVID-19 and despite of it), thereby maintaining efficiency as well as being in touch with live dynamics happening across the customer base.

For existing Artesian customers, we recently launched a new Watchlist Filter so you can stay abreast of the impact of COVID-19 on your customers and prospects. Login, head to any of your Watchlists and add the new Watchlist Filter.

Artesian Watchlist Topic Filter COVID-19

4. Maintain relationships at a social distance

Home working and social distancing will, of course, impact customer relationships.

The frequency of face-to-face customer meetings is likely to be reduced, or removed altogether, for a period of time and therefore the quality and frequency of remote communications needs to increase if businesses are to keep customers engaged with their brand.

Sharing content, delivering personalised communications, and crafting tailored, relevant and timely outreach all require a constant stream of insight and intelligence.

Digital sales tools that provide a constant stream of actionable insight and intelligence can drive content creation and uncover trigger events that highlight when a customer would benefit from a well-timed email or piece of content.

A different engagement experience doesn’t necessarily have to mean a worse experience.

At a recent Executive Lunch, greeting delegates with the Wuhan Shake brought some humour to welcoming guests, positively impacting the engagement rather than creating an awkward ‘no touching’ situation. The same can apply in a digital world where different could mean better.

5. Work smarter

Efficiency reigns in an unstable world, the key to managing dynamic and unpredictable challenges such as COVID-19 is resilience.  Organisations will still need to maintain and drive growth, customers will still have needs and problems to be solved, and salespeople will still have targets to hit.

Businesses need to work harder and smarter in challenging times. Digital tools have changed the way we approach work. Now work can be seen as a thing to do, not a place to go (vitally important when going to the office is ill-advised, or banned).

Digital sales tools that automate the analysis of data, identify trends and insights and deliver them to desktops and mobile devices enable staff to log-on and carry on as normal – stay on top of their pipeline, stay in touch with customer dynamics, find information easily, and respond efficiently and quickly to customer changes, as well as reducing time-consuming routine tasks and freeing up capacity for more complex responsibilities.

A range of outcomes to the COVID-19 outbreak is possible, but one thing is for sure, customers still have needs and business still need customers.

Team leaders and decision-makers should act swiftly to provide their employees with the tools they need to work smarter and stay close to customers.

At Artesian, we have practiced a fully digital sales workflow alongside an in-person process for several years.

Being able to demonstrate the service to prospects, run a pilot, hold video conferences and host training webinars, all online, means our customers receive an exceptional sales experience via their preferred communication channels.