Focus on customer-centricity to manage through times of uncertainty

By: Phil Stern

In times of uncertainty, we believe the most important thing you can do for your business is to return to what matters: your customers. Customer-centricity is more than just a buzzy phrase and it’s more than having a well-staffed customer success organization. It’s an actionable mindset. Being customer-centric is a holistic, company-wide strategy that puts your customers at the center of everything you do.

Rather than over-focusing on new customer acquisition with aggressive tactics like discounts and promotions, customer-centricity involves empathy and good listening skills. In the near-term, this strategy will resonate with your customers because they are looking for a partner who understands their challenges and, therefore, can help.

In the long run, this mindset can reap several measurable benefits including:

  1. Higher customer loyalty and advocacy
  2. Increased customer value
  3. Increased employee satisfaction and retention
  4. More detailed customer insights to inform long-term strategic decisions

If challenges persist, plenty of teams are going to get desperate. Sales leaders will get aggressive and sloppy, bad habits will crop up on the sales floor and in extreme cases, brands will sustain reputational damage. By instituting calm, customer-first leadership from the start, we believe companies are better positioned to attain success in the future.

To help you shore up your customer-centric growth strategy, here are four steps you can follow:

1.High employee morale creates high customer morale.

Recent data shows employee morale impacts customer morale and can affect retention rates. It’s critical to remember that times of uncertainty impact your employees just the same as they impact your customers. Start by being a present leader.  Your goal is not only to reassure your team members that you’re all in this together, but also to arm them with the confidence to support your customers in a way that inspires confidence in them too.

2.Get your entire team involved.

Customer-centricity is a holistic, company-wide strategy – it becomes a part of the company culture. And that means you should get your entire team involved with your customers. Every executive should take customer calls, make customer visits (or virtual video visits via Zoom or another video tool) and in some cases, own specific customer relationships.

3.Re-educate your teams on who your customers are.

Putting your customers at the center of everything you do requires you to know them very well. And one clear benefit of this is that it allows you to quickly anticipate challenges that your customers will be facing in times of uncertainty. This knowledge will help you to tailor your customer interactions, shape your product conversations, and in the end, better tie the value you provide to your customers’ specific needs – especially as those needs adapt to changing circumstances.

4.Find new, and creative, ways to add value for your customers.

Times of uncertainty can provide an opportunity to reinforce your commitment to customers. This can take the form of temporarily unlocking premium features of your product at no additional cost or working to develop a small, but impactful, new product feature and including it for your customers in their current pricing. Peloton and Zoom are examples of companies that quickly pivoted to offer extended freemium and free products in the last week, providing value to the community at this challenging time and expanding their “land” considerably. You can also use tools like Pendo or Google analytics to gain customer insights so you can provide new opportunities for education on your product where they are specifically needed by your customers.

For every business out there, periods of uncertainty can lead to difficulty, but they can also lead to intense periods of focus on the most critical and fundamental aspects of running a thriving business. So, focus on your customers, ensure they’re at the heart of everything you do. They’re why you’re in business in the first place, after all.

Phil is a Operating Principal at Mainsail Partners. He leads the firm’s Center of Excellence for Sales and is responsible for helping Mainsail’s portfolio companies optimize their growth strategies and deploy sales practices.
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