Customer feedback is critical now, even more-so than ever before. In the midst of an ongoing crisis, carrying with it intense implications for our health, our economy and our relationships, everything, in all facets of life, is still being upended. While the onset of the coronavirus crisis was acute, we’ve now moved into a different stage—the “Dance,” as Tomas Pueyo termed it in his paper on Medium entitled “The Hammer and the Dance”—where a new, very uneasy, normal has set in.
The ramifications of these circumstances have continued to be keenly felt in the business sector, especially in small business, as we all grapple with this newfound state of profound uncertainty and change, both at the personal and societal levels.
To say communication is critical in times of crisis is a truism bordering on the point of a cliche. What’s less trite, however, is unpacking the importance of ongoing communication as we move from an acute to a more normalized stage of the current situation. With the onset of a new normal in our circumstances, we need to have a corresponding new normal in terms of our communication standards.
It’s critical to continue to tackle the simmering, unsettling sense of uncertainty—and the dislocation accompanying it—with strong, robust and reliable communication mechanisms. To do so means taking a proactive approach to your business communications, thereby ensuring your quality of service delivery and solidifying the health of your commercial relationships.
The greater the issue, the greater the response
Uncertainty demands frequent, effective communication in order to avoid creating a vacuum of unanswered questions and uninformed assumptions. And the deeper the uncertainty, the deeper the need in terms of the frequency and efficacy of the communication. In this case, what is true of our personal relationships is also true of our business relationships: in situations of uncertainty and crisis, emotional responses are typically amplified and intensified.
In a report from consultancy giant McKinsey + Company in the early days of COVID-19, their team noted that, “Particularly in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty.”
Immediate and lingering are important words here—a single interaction can influence, or even determine, the view of an entire business relationship both in the short and long run in such an environment. In other words, every engagement counts, big-time.
Further exacerbating the situation is the dislocation for many businesses, both physical and existential, as companies not suited or not prepared for remote work have been forced at breakneck speed to transition to a completely different operating model. Tensions are high in so many ways.
Of course, this is a double-edged sword for MSPs and other helpdesks: on the one hand, MSPs are naturally suited to facilitate this transition, an ideal partner in navigating the changes; on the other hand, the client need can be tremendous and unprecedented, creating an exponential increase in terms of both the volume and scope of work. (A quick case study in success: The Final Step saw a 230% increase in support calls, yet still maintained a best-in-class customer satisfaction score of 99!)
“As more and more clients are moving to working from home, using home networks to connect to their corporate infrastructure,” said Concertium IT President and CEO Pratik Roychoudhury, “MSP service desk calls are increasing.”
This creates both a powerful opportunity and a dangerous risk. It’s critical that you’re building a sense of trust and confidence—not confusion and chaos—in every interaction.
Check out the recent episode of ConnectWise Tech Talk: Technologies that Support a Remote Workforce, featuring Andrew Wallace, SmileBack’s Managing Director & Chief Product Officer.
Constant, quality customer feedback is part of the solution
The systemic collection, analysis and deliberate response around customer feedback positions your company to build connection with your client base and demonstrate constant and consistent value around your company and service.
First, simply by virtue of asking for feedback, you are implicitly underscoring the importance and value of your customer relationships and explicitly demonstrating your commitment to them. This in and of itself contributes to closing the gap between you and your client.
Second, by then acting on that feedback, you’re even further underscoring your dedication to your business relationship, showcasing that you’re a prepared, resilient partner who, despite the challenging new realities and circumstances we’re all facing, is focusing on its clients’ needs first. You’re showcasing that your company seeks professional growth proactively, listens genuinely and addresses issues as they arise within a systemised, deliberate and considered approach.
Similarly, as the circumstances continuously change, you’re highly likely to be made aware of issues quickly because you’re soliciting ongoing feedback. In other words, your finger will be on the proverbial pulse. Instead of attempting to address a problem once its fully materialized and laid at your doorstep, you’ll be able to take note of early warning signs and diagnose and address any issue before it metastasises.
With this level of active commitment to helping your clients’ business you’re cementing yourself over and over as an indispensable service—an essential status for service providers in a time when cost considerations are top of mind for nearly all business executives around the world.
Malcolm Newdick of Riverbank IT Management, in a fantastic series on surviving the recession, put it well: “Many of your customers might be in hibernation and the world might feel like Christmas with none of the fun. Your clients will be as worried as you. Embrace them (figuratively speaking), listen to them, demonstrate that you are their ally and therefore indispensable.”
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Customer feedback also makes you better
Not only can a systemic approach to customer feedback directly improve your client relationships, and by extension, your commercial success, but it also can be a mirror to your own operations as you, just like your clients, navigate uncertain times for your own business.
As noted earlier, as your clients are going more remote and establishing new business processes and identifying new technical needs, they’re becoming more reliant on their MSP. That’s ultimately a good thing for your company—but it can also strain your internal operations and test your company culture.
The newly added pressure combined with the increase in volume and scope can exacerbate any existing internal issues. Executives, managers and agents alike need to be aware of these issues and address them quickly and effectively. Just as customer feedback can close the gap between you and your client, it can also close the gap between internal expectations and reality.
With frequent and effective customer feedback, internal service desk operators can see their own issues reflected back to them. As you address problems for your clients, you can address problems within your culture and operations. The feedback will naturally provide a more objective method of internal performance measurement and provide the data to help support correcting individual and collective failures.
On the flip side, collecting feedback can also be a very rewarding and motivating endeavour for your team. Receiving positive feedback—be it a hearty thank you, words of encouragement or personal praise for a job well done—when there isn’t necessarily a lot of positivity to go around helps keep employees engaged and attuned to the human side of your clients. The connection works both ways.
Since the start of coronavirus crisis, we’ve received repeat testimonials from our own customers, sharing heartwarming messages they’ve received from their clients through our feedback channels. They’ve noted that both the volume and the nature of the feedback has changed significantly—they’re receiving more feedback, more positive feedback and the positive feedback is even more positive!
MSPs are telling us that their clients have never been as understanding and empathetic as they are now—they know this because they show their clients they care through asking for and responding to feedback. We’re witnessing a virtuous cycle of appreciation between client and service provider, with good communication and gratitude flowing both ways.
The need for quick and effective communication systems won’t change anytime soon. The new normal is just that—it’s set a standard for how we live and work, many aspect of which are likely persist through the current crisis and into the future. The key is to be prepared for them now and then, and to take proactive steps in order to ensure you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of your team, your business and, most importantly, your customer relationships.
- Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus [McKinsey]
- Getting your business through a coronavirus lockdown [Malcom Newdick]
- Recession survival checklist – 24 lessons for small businesses from a recession ‘old-timer’ [Malcolm Newdick]
- Powering your MPS through a recession [Malcolm Newdick]
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