The Covid-19 situation, that basically halted most of the globe and with that most of the business, is at its core like any situation in the past: it’s a threat but it also brings opportunities.
Handling how those outside factors influence our business is what all of us do every day. But in what this stoppage differs from other situations is that it has lasted so long. We all ask ourselves how to change the way we do business so that it will benefit us even when we exit the crisis and how to correctly interact with our customers in their journey during the crisis.
This paper discusses exactly that: what we can do to manage the fallout of demand and find new opportunities in order to be successful.
You will be successful if you prepare better than your competitors.
Many companies will look to stop their innovation cycles during this hiatus, not just product innovation but also the business model and culture innovation.
This is likely a wrong strategy in an environment where we face a change of perception throughout the sales funnel. If you want to make sure that the investment in change will pay dividends, the change must transcend our current reality. This means that whatever change we make it must not be situational.
Create good habits and adopt channels that will serve you going forward no matter the situation.
Team Steffenhagen in their paper discusses optimizing channels in your current scope. There are some key efforts to keep your momentum going.
First, continue with building a relationship with customers you already have and continue to reassess their portfolio. Now to do that you really need to know your customers or to have a system in place that helps you to know them. Usually, the pulse of the market is sales reps that have close relationships with customers. Their feedback in these times is not as on point as it would be in normal times. So, any system you have in place that can predict or even directly communicate with your customers as deep as a few distribution levels, helps you predict for future production.
Lastly rethinking your channels to reach the market is a needed strategy at this point. Direct contact with formulators or even procurement is a tall task since they have very specific needs or requirements.
Create a customer-centric environment
Today more than ever it is vitally important to create a correct view of customer journey and to continue interaction with them in the most efficient way for the customer. There are ways to adopt what is now a bypass into your culture and organization.
Changing the view from product-centric to customer-centric is easy in the service industry but in the product industry, we often think that product should be the center of our business since so much depends on it. That is partially true: we need a premium product to be competitive. But the best customer service and highest satisfaction build relationships and habits.
We all have substitute products and services just waiting to talk to our customers and do a better job at customer service. For this, it is important to understand the customer journey and to plan products and support around them.
Going a step forward, creating an intuitive environment for your customers where they can build around your products in an easy and manageable way, is a key effort that you should be concentrating on.
Every industry has a different approach to enabling customers, but formulators in the chemical industry can easily be the most complex group to talk to. But if you can manage to get them intrigued, they will change their habits to include your company in them.
What did our customers expect us to do before Covid-19?
One key insight is that our customers don’t expect us to do different things, they just expect us to be available to the same extent as we were before Covid-19. They also expect us to accommodate the lack of contact and for limitations of the new work environment.
There are of course many ways to go about inviting customers directly into your environment, like for instance your homepage. Development of a homepage that is not just informative but also interactive is a tall task and it takes time. If you have everything set up on your customer-centric page, then you’re likely ahead of the competition. But if not, it’s not the end of the world. Involve your sales staff and distributors into the equation. Distribute good practices, customer, and product data.
Create a single source of truth that everyone can use and rely on. This will make your organization quicker to respond to changes and less vulnerable to key people leaving. That is how you ensure that customer satisfaction is at the same level that it was before. It is never the best one-time experience that wins on the long run but the most consistent one. Everyone wants to rely on their partners and wants their partners to be reliable.
Covid-19 will help us to change faster
No matter where we are right now, Covid-19 changed the way we do business.
Either our suppliers are not fully available or our customers don’t buy as much or we don’t have face to face meetings. Whatever the case, we’re more digital in our everyday work, in our search activities and sales. If we’re all fully ready, that’s another question. The situation is a threat and an opportunity. It all depends if we’re proactive or reactive. If we’re proactive then this is an opportunity to upgrade sales funnel, upgrade our sales effort, shorten those cycles we never had time for, put some spit-shine on our tech support. Whatever the area we want to improve, changes we make now will help us be more competitive in the long run if those changes can be sustained.
If we’re reactive, this is a threat that we can turn to opportunity just by deciding to change our mindset. But in the end, it’s about picking the right partners, the right team, and the right tools for the job.