Answer honestly. In normal business circumstances, how good are you at keeping in contact with your customers? Not just those you are actively doing business with, or in discussion with? How about those you haven’t done business with for a while, or you’ve put in the capable hands of an Account Manager because all is running smoothly?
How often do you call just to make contact and see how their business is going?
The Simple Lesson: Don’t Be a Stranger
The reason I pose the question? I’ve learned an important lesson since working in lockdown. As I wrote in a previous article, in these unique times businesses need to evolve and not try and continue as usual if that’s no longer relevant. That means it’s more vital than ever that we listen to our clients and find out what new challenges they’re facing.
Understanding current challenges naturally mean spending a large quantity of time having frank and open discussions. As you know yourself, the person you want to talk openly to is usually the one you already have a good relationship with.
Over time, as my position has become more senior, my role and use of time have changed considerably, as it does for most. As Managing Director, pre-lockdown, the majority of my time was spent in all manner of internal meetings, combined with a number of hours traveling. I usually had contact with our clients at an advanced stage in the process, typically to check on the quality of service they were receiving from our fantastic consultants, and to see where we could expand on the relationship. I didn’t have time and often didn’t feel it was my place to routinely just check in with people to see how their business was going.
The result is, to be completely truthful, I had let contact slip with some clients I’d had great relationships with as a consultant. This was also partly a consequence of spending several years in The Netherlands.
What has this meant? Well, in all the excellent and meaningful conversations with clients present and past I’ve had over the last few weeks, I’ve felt humbled by realising there were gaps in the relationship – things I didn’t know had happened in their lives; them not having heard from me since my second child was born. The important moments that mean more to a relationship than business updates or job vacancies. It’s been an unexpected pleasure of lockdown, catching up on all this and reconnecting. In lockdown, they’ve been more available to talk too.
“No matter how diverse your role becomes, you need to keep your clients at the heart of everything you do.”
Clients First, Operations Second
This experience has brought home one simple, obvious truth. No matter how diverse your role becomes, you need to keep your clients at the heart of everything you do. It’s reminded me that I must, no matter how much our business grows, devote a portion of every day to listening to our clients. And finally, that businesses have to be client, not operations led, to remain relevant and successful.
What have been some of your most valuable business lessons since being in lockdown? I’d love to hear. Share your thoughts in the comments below and contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org