A year in lockdown supporting our customers
Looking back at the last 12 months, it’s easy to focus on the negative news and forget the positives that came out of going into lockdown. With so many companies being thrown into a new way of working, internally with their people having to set up at home, and externally with a new way of managing customer needs, I think we can all agree we all achieved a lot in a moment’s notice.
Working in a virtual world
Being a Customer Management Consultancy, there is always an element of working remotely or virtually in our line of work, and suddenly we found our top clients asking us for advice – how do we keep the organisation running? How can we help our people adapt? How can we manage customers in a virtual environment?
So, we adapted our services and strategies for online delivery, working with our clients’ internal teams guiding and steering their new way of working.
We noticed quite quickly the impact virtual working was having on salespeople who thrive on face-to-face interactions. Here they were having to change the way they operate entirely setting themselves up from the kitchen table, so to speak. We worked with our clients’ showing them how to build relations, manage customer issues, negotiate deals and sign new contracts, all via a video call.
These workshops were so successful for their UK offices, that each company we worked for rolled them out to their global offices. Here we had to adjust our programmes to accommodate new times zones and different office cultures, where everyone enrolled had the opportunity to take part, be heard and most importantly, feel like they were working in a team and not alone.
We saw, that investing in people capabilities took number one priority for a lot of companies.
Broken Trust in the Supply Chain
But significantly, there was a lot of disruption in the supply chain for many of our clients; reduced deliveries, low stock, short of cash flow, shortage of staff, you name it. The strain of the pandemic was really starting to bare its teeth across consumer goods.
There were two categories of supply chain companies facing lockdown disruption:
Fully closed – no customers; staff on furlough; severe cashflow problems; uncertainty. These companies needed guidance on how the emerging government support measures could specifically help them, including access to government backed finance – but more importantly how they could survive and be ready when lockdown measures re-opened the economy
Partial closure – perhaps the hardest situation to face, where companies have some revenues and provide a service at a loss. Advice on how to maximise government support, provide a service, and then plan to return to pre-lockdown levels of revenues when access to cashflow was becoming a real challenge.
And whilst all this was happening, suppliers were managing their own financial exposure to hospitality businesses which created a real need to closely watch for changes in payment patterns.
Throughout this period, it became very clear how companies were depending on trusted partners and suppliers to fulfil contracts. It was beginning to show where business-to-business relationships were experiencing a breakdown in trust, which was having a detrimental effect on business.
Before lockdown became a new way of life, we were in the midst of launching The Trust Evaluator, the brainchild of our co-founding Director, Dr Mark Hollyoake, who had achieved academic recognition for his Doctorate on B2B Trust.
Dr Mark’s academic research shows that the triggers and critical incidents for deepening or damaging trust are not the same across both sides of the relationship and within different levels of seniority and engagement. Meaning that if you act quickly, you can save trust and repair the relationship, resolve issues and problem solve together, to ensure that both sides benefit commercially.
In a way, lockdown was the perfect environment to launch The Trust Evaluator, as we watched in real time how cracks were starting to show in clients supplier/contract relationships, and here we had an academically acclaimed methodology to pilot in a real-life scenario. Our clients were quite frankly, relieved they could implement something on the spot and fend off potential relationship disasters.
Sharing our insights
Working across all these areas; internal people capabilities and external customer/supplier relationships, we realised we had a lot of insights to share with customers and peers, which led us to develop four online panel discussion on zoom.
May 2020 – Providing Leadership Through Change and Uncertainty – with guest speakers: Laura Jordan, AXA XL, Andrea Taylor, Fentimans and Calum Byers, Executive Coach and Associate at Customer Attuned.
July 2020 – Adapting to New Normal Customer Behaviour – with guest speakers: Kirk Bradley, Bupa Insurance, Tiffany Carpenter, SAS, James Leese, Cox Automotive, hosted by Peter Lavers, Customer Attuned.
October 2020 – The Trust Factor – Making B2B Trust your Business DNA – with guest speakers: David Haley, Atos, Mumbi Odame, Rand Merchant Bank, David Brown, Covea Insurance. Hosted by Dr Mark Hollyoake
February 2021 – Developing People in a Digital World – with guest speakers: Katrina O’Malley, QBE Insurance, Margaret McCaig, HSBC, Tessa Boshoff, Wall Street English, hosted by Alan Thompson of Customer Attuned.
The beauty of zoom, meant that our audience could engage with us and the speakers directly, ask questions, add to the debate and be a part of the panel discussions as though they we were all in the same room. And on top of that, we could record all the online discussions, which you can watch anytime here:
What happens after lockdown?
As companies slowly come out of lockdown this month, we will see a new way of working appear. Blended flexible hours in the office and working from home and a new style of customer behaviour in consumer goods sector. We at Customer Attuned will continue to work alongside our clients, ensuring they build trusted relationships internally and externally, and fundamentally, keeping the customer at the heart of all their strategies.
You’ll see in our infographic how every client is different, and how we adapted our services and propositions to suit their needs. It’s been a productive year and we are thrilled to continue to help our clients as they resume a new normal way of working.
Talk to us
Would you like to know more about how we can help your company? Get in touch here.