In these unprecedented times of uncertainty and stress on businesses and their supply chains, there are new and complex challenges arising for service providers.
In the few short weeks that the Coronavirus crisis has been impacting the Australian economy, we have heard from many of our clients who are experiencing opportunities and issues they have never seen before. Frankly, we have never seen them either. However, while the underlying motivations that determine how people and organisations behave have changed dramatically, the underlying principles of how you should approach your customers have not changed at all.
Through three examples of circumstances that have arisen due to Coronavirus, this short article will explore how to implement best-practice Business Development and Customer Focus in a changing and uncertain world.
Contract Extension for Convenience
One of the positive outcomes! Some of our clients have been contacted and offered an extension in order to avoid tendering during the shutdown period. This is clearly a blessing and lifeline to get through the next few months. It is, however, only temporary. When things return to normal (or the new version of normal), formal contract renewal process will recommence.
Use this time to demonstrate good customer focus. Collaborate with them on what they need from you. They may need you to keep doing what you’ve always done, but require subtle changes to communication, working hours or reporting. You will rarely get the opportunity to engage with your client like this, use it to gain a deeper understanding of the people and their business. That knowledge will assist with the re-bid at a later stage.
Changing times create changing needs. Many businesses need their service providers to undertake additional work, reduce their scope or change their work methods. Listen to what your customers need right now. Don’t assume it’s business as usual, because it almost certainly isn’t. Use that collaboration to build a level of trust, rapport and knowledge of your client that may not have been possible under normal circumstances. These actions will position you well when the formal retendering processes start again.
Cancelling or Deferring Contracts
Expect this to happen, if it hasn’t already. Don’t get angry. Everyone is trying to navigate through unchartered waters and doing the best they can. How you respond now will influence how your prospect or customer views you later. Respect their decision and offer to help in other ways. You might not be able to win a contract now by demonstrating some empathy, but you can certainly lose future business by being inconsiderate.
My final word of advice is to consider your supply chain, both upstream and downstream. Treat those who rely on you the same way you would like your clients to treat you. At Shipley Asia Pacific, we have abandoned our office to work from home, but we still pay our cleaner. Talk to your clients and prospects about their changing needs and try to adjust your offers or services to make their lives a bit easier. For example, we have modified many of our training courses to be delivered via webinar and expanded our capability in remote bid support.
We’re all in this together. If we don’t look after each other, this crisis will run longer and cut deeper.