The last year has forced most of us to get very comfortable conducting business in ways outside of our norm. In fact, many experts agree that certain workplace trends will be changed forever: things like travel and flexibility in where we work from, for example, are likely to be reshaped permanently. And while there’s plenty to miss about the days of interacting in-person, the new normal of virtual meetings and gathering remotely may actually allow us to connect face-to-face more, which, if approached with the right strategy, could be a boon to customer relationship building.
With people more willing than ever to meet via video conference, there’s a lot you can do to keep customer relationships strong despite the distance. So while in-person meetings remain on hold (and “Zoom fatigue” is certainly real), it’s nevertheless possible to create personalized touchpoints among your high-value accounts. Here are some ideas to keep virtual meetings fresh and keep engagement high among your strategic accounts, even as we continue to work remotely.
Relationships Are King
Let us take a step back to say what can’t be said enough: B2B relationships are fragile. It was true pre-pandemic, and it will remain true as long as customers continue to have more choices and more power (which it seems they do, by the day). The greatest tool at an account manager’s disposal is their own human ability to connect with their customer—and not just names and titles. A successful account manager will actively work to understand the customer’s needs, and to ultimately build a relationship that’s unique to them.
Know Your Customer
When building customer relationships, the goal is to create a partnership that puts YOU at the top of the client’s call list. Take an honest account of your existing client relationships: has your work together been on autopilot? Do you understand your client’s unique objectives and do you actively work with those objectives in mind? If you can’t definitively say that those are the kinds of customer relationships you have now, there are things you can do to start moving in that direction—today.
It’s easy to put off big conversations for a future date, but “back to normal”, whatever that will mean, is still far away; now is the time to schedule a face-to-face video call to dive deeper into your customer’s needs, expectations and goals. Better yet, use
Kapta’s Voice of Customer tools to help you jump start the process, and learn to exceed your customer’s expectations and become a trusted advisor.
Keep It Consistent
Relationship building and Voice of Customer exercises are not a one-time act. Continuous relationship management involves staying in regular contact, perpetually anticipating a customer’s needs, and devising ongoing strategies to solve the customer’s problems. To say it’s a lot of work is an understatement. But it’s critical that key account managers not let this be a time that communication drops. Video calls and virtual conferencing have become the norm; it’s time to think about creative ways that these now mainstream channels of communication can work for you.
Go Beyond “Checking in” and Add Value
Ok, ok, I get it—despite the optimistic picture I’ve painted, at the end of the day, all of what’s being suggested here requires yet…another…video…call. But if relationships are king, then communication is queen, and for important or longer conversations, as well as general getting-to-know-you chit-chat, a video call is still better than an email or phone call. In addition to the practices listed above, here are some ways to keep customer interactions engaging, and to add value every time you meet.
1) “Coffee Chats”
Try to remember the last time a “coffee” meeting turned up on your calendar…now imagine seeing that invitation showing up today! At the very least, your attention would be piqued, right? A reimagined, virtual take on the coffee chat is a creative way to surprise and delight your clients.
Have your account representatives electronically send $10 Starbucks gift cards (or Dunkin, or whatever the locally convenient java option is) to customers before a sync-up or account review. This is also an impactful way to introduce yourself to a new contact or business team. And hey, maybe you’ll all get a laugh out of the not-so-distant throwback to the coffee chats of yore.
2) Celebratory Donuts
Donuts are cake, and cake means celebration. So what better way to mark the completion of a major project or a successful quarterly review than with donuts? Send your client contacts an electronic gift card or QR code to order donuts for themselves, or take it a step further and have donuts delivered.
3) $20 Charity Donations
Up the ante by incentivising your clients through charity. Create a promotion around a desired touchpoint—for example, a top-of-the-quarter kickoff call to discuss the year’s successes so far and areas of focus for the coming months—and offer to make a donation to the charity of choice for any clients who agree to join. This gives you the opportunity to engage in a key conversation, and provides an added feel-good factor for your client, too.
Working remote and keeping distanced has taken customer relationship building from what was already a heavy lift, and made it, at times, seem impossible. But it’s well worth exploring how our “new normal”—and the necessity of over-communicating, to compensate for distance—can be used creatively. To see how Kapta can help support, accelerate and mentor your efforts, schedule a personal demo today.