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COVID-19, beyond creating financial uncertainty, is fundamentally altering how companies operate and subsequently put a strain on business relationships. Companies have limited access to customers and employees. They have implement health measures with reduced in-person contact. There is also a change in workflow and management processes along the same contact-less lines.

The pandemic has also forced businesses to maintain and build relationships with customer when their world has been upended. These critical relationship that the company must develop and maintain with key stakeholders constantly changing.

Post-COVID-19 companies will have discovered that digital interactions are effective and much less costly. Statistics show that in-person meetings may decline by as much as 80%.

More frequent communication will be necessary to strengthen business relationships when social distancing has been minimized or personal interaction eliminated. The aim is to maintain business relationships, employee morale and employee engagement.

Business success will therefore require thoughtfulness and answers to important questions. These include; What can we do to maintain our connection with customers? and How can we stay in front of our customers?

To optimize these key business relationships, we need to;

  1. Use current changes in customer needs and priorities to recalibrate our relationships.  Focus on the latent and unmet needs of the customer and introduce innovative solutions. Where applicable consider new partnerships for you and customers mutual benefit.
  2. Review business practices, available resources and the product and service portfolio. Determine which ones to continue moving forward with, which ones to stop and which ones to start. Think about what new partnerships or opportunities we can identify to bring new business partners into our ecosystem.
  3. Re-examine the relationship and value we bring to our existing ecosystem. Show customers that we are willing to go beyond what we need to do for their benefit.
  4. Celebrate and reward good customer centric practices amongst our employees and partners.
  5. Demonstrate the company’s broader purpose and credibility as a force for positive change in our community.  Focusing on CSR or ESG practices that could open our company to new investment, build a stronger brand and promote sustainable long-term growth benefits.
  6. “Humanize” the company by communicating to customers what we can offer them. Focus on the value we can create for our customers and elaborate how, despite the upheaval, we will continue to provide the expected service and maintain the requisite value propositions.
  7. Educate customers about the changes in your operation and how they will be able to interact with your company going-forward. Any changes proposed should be in our customers’ best interests.
  8. Revolutionize what consumers value about our business. Inform existing customers the new ways we will serve. Reach out to potential customers by offering new products or services that solve their problems.

How do we maintain business relationships in times of uncertainty?

In such times the end-in-mind is to persevere through each obstacle, learn and gain knowledge from each experience. During these unprecedented times much importance will be put in the company continuing to communicate for the purpose of building relationships by focusing on;

Consistency: In a crisis, it’s crucial for customers to know they can continue to count on you, your company and your products and services. As the adage goes, out of sight, out of mind. In the midst of confusion, customers are hungry for information from the companies they typically support.

Empathy: The last thing the company wants to do when its customers are scared is come across as insensitive. It’s recommended that services is offered in a way that communicates a company’s willingness and capacity to help. This should not be in a way that conveys greed or a disregard for customers’ changing circumstances.

Resiliency: During distress times, companies should expect unprecedented business disruptions. They will need to make an effort to maintain a connection with their customers. Adjustments are required across the business and understanding these changes are necessary to bounce back better and stronger. Opportunities will arise, new ideas, new recommendations and new tactics that can be leveraged only by companies that remain resilient.

How your company approaches adversity shapes its opportunity for success coming out of the pandemic. It’s instinctive for businesses to pull back and hunker down in times of uncertainty, this often leads to weakened customer connections and fewer business transactions. Success won’t come from panicking or hunkering down only by making decisions about how to continue building relationships. Those companies will propel themselves forward and, when life returns to normalcy as we know it, they will be in position for continued success.

With new opportunities comes growth from those sustained business relationships.

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