For many businesses during the pandemic, one of the most prominent concepts to emerge has been the notion of “pivot.” Business existence is far from normal resulting in a shift in mindset toward sustainability instead of thriving. The pandemic has presented an opportunity for many businesses to reevaluate their strategies.
Finding that pivot point has been the subject of articles and webinars, and some of the most successful pivots have been heralded as a kind of modern triumph on the scale of a Homer Odyssey. It has been the product of data, analytics, and intuition, and advanced customer success practices.
Refocus, Strategize and Recalibrate
I recently hosted a virtual event, where a digital communications company described the tremendous challenge in retooling during the pandemic. To add some context, a sizable portion of this company’s customer base is in the hospitality field. They faced a devastating blow as the hospitality industry came close to a full stop once the pandemic was in full force. Physically located conventions and conferences were canceled or postponed, business travel gave way to work-at-home video conferencing, and vacationers were hesitant to travel.
For this company, the pivot was not as much about jumping into adjacent markets or fundamentally shifting their business. Instead, they decided that they would take care of their customers at any cost – while not a new concept for the company, a new approach was called for. They knew that the pandemic would not last forever and that markets would eventually return to somewhat “normal” conditions. They resolved to stick with their customers and help them through, particularly realizing that hospitality companies were even more reliant on digital communication and conveying clear, honest information.
Refocusing the business on this new approach represented a significant pivot because it involved altering the customer engagement. In making this shift, three factors proved to be indispensable.
1. Let Data Dictate Your Path
First and foremost, pivoting or shifting the way a business works is much more than just setting sight on something new. Once the change has been identified, it requires a thorough re-thinking of all aspects of business operation. This restrategizing needs to be largely customer-driven. The ability to see through the eyes of a customer or to place oneself in a customer’s shoes is an acquired talent that requires active listening, trust- and relationship-building and setting aside most assumptions, making the process entirely data-driven. Re-think and reexamine a customer’s goals, desired value, and differences in how products and services should be delivered, what kind of support is necessary, and all other considerations, including pricing and billing. In this case, many customers in the hospitality field lacked the expertise for a massive digital transformation. The company had to determine who to work with and how to play a larger, more hands-on role. They also had to reexamine pricing and terms to accommodate customers with depressed business and revenues.
2. Let the Customer Drive the Change
Secondly, making a significant shift requires constant customer feedback and monitoring. One can’t expect that a single input session from customers will suffice. A customer success team needs to be geared for numerous check-ins with customers to determine if any mid-course changes are needed, in order to understand if needs or concerns may have shifted. A combination of empathy, along with a robust system of record to capture customer insights would go a long way. Such a system needs to be able to properly capture information, make it readily accessible, provide proper dissemination, and turn information into action. It is also valuable to tie information to tasks and activities to increase the productivity of the customer success team.
3. Structure the Change Process
Third, it is important to recognize that change is a process. While somethings occur instantaneously, others continue to evolve over time. A simplistic model for this involves three stages: crisis, recovery, and growth. The needs and concerns at each stage are, of course, different. Again, the need to continue the re-thinking process while taking in constant customer feedback and tracking and administrating the resulting activities and changes is essential.
Fortunately, experiencing a crisis is not a frequent experience for most companies. Still, the eve of a crisis is not the time to start scrambling to evolve a customer success team, acquire a modern system of record, or develop core practices or procedures, inter-department cooperation, and other needed foundational elements. Begin developing these things so that they are in place well before a crisis or existential challenge strikes. These contingency plans can help in fine-tuning businesses in turbulent times by providing greater precision and flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances.