Break the Glass – The ABCs of Customer Experience During COVID-19

This is the 5th and final installment in my series Break the Glass, where we are looking at what you can do to deliver a positive human experience in this time of great business disruption. (Next week will start a new series on the role emotions play in customer experience delivery.)

Sales trainers have long championed the concept of ABC. Which stands for always be closing. They suggest that when presenting your service or product, you should always be moving the conversation to close the sale. In the context of our current pandemic, I would modify ABC so that it stands for always be connecting.

In reality, everyone and I mean everyone is hurting these days. Whether your customer is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company anguishing about cash flow and the monstrous impact of decisions concerning furloughs or risk mitigation, or if your customer is a single parent who is worried about rent and childcare, all of us are creating experiences for frightened, confused, tired, and anxious customers. Now is not the time to always be closing a sale. It is, however, a time to always be connecting. Better yet, it is a time to connect and seek to solve your customer’s most critical needs.

I was talking to a friend that runs an organization that provides business development tools for dentists. Not only is my friend listening to his members and providing helpful emotional and business management support, but he is securing gowns and other protective gear for his membership. His company is not, and never will be, in the procurement business. However, for the short-term, he is resourcefully responding to the greatest need of his clients. My friend is adding value for his members and filling their current needs without making a profit from the items he secures. My friend is connecting and addressing the central need he has identified through his connection with those he serves.

In the old days, I thought I routinely connected with prospects and customers. I used my customer relationship management system to assure that I regularly reached out to customers and prospects alike. While the frequency of my contacts was disciplined, this pandemic has changed the quality of that connection. When I think back to my behavior before COVID-19, I am a bit embarrassed by my matter-of-fact approach to connection. I typically set-up a call and after very minimal small talk, would launch right into the heart of my client’s customer experience or leadership challenges. Seldom did I ask about their family, recreational interests, joys, or concerns beyond their business. All that has changed now, and I commit to make authentic personal inquiries a permanent part of connecting.

Connecting during this pandemic (and in life in general) is more than identifying our client’s business need. It is about listening to the totality of their experience as people. A great example of a brand that practices an “always be connecting” approach is one that I’ve had the honor to work with and write about. Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos has in the face of COVID-19 set-up Zappos’ “help with anything line”. In the U.S. you can call 1-800-927-7671 and hit option 3 to get connected with a Zappos customer loyalty team member. That person isn’t there to sell you online products, but quite literally is there to help you with anything.

We may not be able to create a dedicated “help with anything line,” but we can always be connecting with our clients at a deeply human level. Where possible we can find ways to address our prospects’ and clients’ most pressing needs. I would love to listen to your needs. Simply reach out to me here.

I promise to always be connecting as I listen to the totality of the challenges you are confronting in these times.

Be safe and be strong!

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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