Managing customer relationships given Coronavirus related restrictions

Before we all had to start working from home we had a lot of options for managing existing customer relationships.  Maybe you had easy access to key customer contacts and could have informal discussions.  Walking into someone’s office was a possibility.  Recurring meetings you may have had could be informal because you were in the same room.  Taking the same approach has now become a challenge.  A new approach will serve you better…

1st – understand how your customer’s environment has changed

Here is part of what your customer contacts are likely thinking about regarding their working environment:

  • My priorities have changed dramatically
  • Juggling time and responsibilities between home and kids
  • I have more distractions working at home (have you seen Jimmy Fallon try to do a minilogue?)

In order to get them to pay attention, you will need to be efficient with their time. Some structure will help you manage communication with your customers.

2nd – Establish a recurring video conference

Informal discussions and easy access to key customer contacts are largely gone for a while.  Here are some key elements for a recurring video conference that should restore some of your access to your customers.

  • Video conference should take place on the same day at the same time at whatever frequency your customer agrees to (e.g. weekly, monthly).
  • Same attendees on every call
  • Agenda is largely the same in each conference (additional items agreed to on previous call)

3rd – Use a Status document to manage each call

In order to effectively manage a recurring call having a document to work from is a MUST.  Remember, every participant is in a different location and has their own distractions.  These documents are not hard to put together and will be appreciated by your customers!  Here is a sample…

4th – Update and distribute the document before each video conference

Customers will appreciate your sending or sharing an updated document several days before the next video conference.  It will give them a chance to review before the call and be ready to participate.  Let’s be honest…we all sometimes forget to take care of action items.  People will get this and say, woops, better get that action item done before I look foolish on the next call. 

I did not invent this idea – Success story from a former co-worker

In the mid-1990s, I was one of several Sales Managers in a technology solutions company in the Hartford area.  One of my peers had a team managing one of the largest insurance companies in the area.  She and her team leveraged this approach to managing this account.  They knocked out almost every competitor and were wildly successful selling tens of millions in technology solutions.  This structure kept issues to a “simmer” and ensured the customer was well informed about progress of key projects.

Feel free to contact me directly for ideas and/or help on this topic.