Even in the best of times, leading a business is no easy task. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on global markets (not to mention people’s lives), this task is becoming even more challenging. Every industry is being hit, and it’s impossible to say how long it will take to fully recover.

In situations like these, most leaders instinctively look internally, and closely examine their people, products, and services. It’s easy to spend all of your time calculating base, best, and worst-case business disruption scenarios and their impact on important KPIs. These are critically important, but to ensure your business can survive tough times, it is more important than ever to be looking outside your company, and doubling down on the value of a customer-centric culture.

I’ve been working in and around the asset management industry for more than two decades, and I currently serve as CEO of Imagineer Technology Group, a marketing and investor relations software service provider. In an industry like ours, we are focused on owning our relationships with our clients forever—as long as they are in business we want them to be a client. That’s not just because we like them; it is far more economically efficient for us to retain existing client relationships than to put all of our efforts into constantly searching for new ones. I’d be willing to bet the same is also true for your business.

To that end, I have found that the best way to retain and grow our relationships is by being relentlessly customer-centric. That means focusing on the deep-seated needs of each customer over our wants as a business. I believe that the most important thing you can do in business is to develop mutual respect between your customer (or prospect) and your company by being customer-centric.

There are a number of ways to inspire a customer-centric culture within your business — for us at Imagineer, it all flows from constantly focusing on our core values of openness to see the world from the client’s perspective; gratitude to show the client they are valued; pragmatism to find the right solution; and integrity to do the right thing. But what specifically can you do with customers to show them how much they are valued?

The following are four ways to show your commitment to customer-centricity in both good and bad times:

Strike A Balance Between Live And Self-Support
We’ve all grown accustomed to self-support, even if we don’t always love it. As businesses, we invest boat-loads of dollars in tools like FAQs, forums, knowledge books, and support videos in order to ensure our customers can get the information they need as efficiently — and cost-effectively — as possible. This is a great starting point, but isn’t enough.

Companies must find a balance between live and self-support. Why? For starters, in many cases it is simply easier for the company and the customer to handle an issue person-to-person. More importantly, there are also times when speaking with your customers directly may be the only way to retain them.

Think of it this way: the minute your customer becomes desperate enough to pick up the phone to talk or to engage in live chat at their keyboard, they’ve already reached a breaking point of sorts. They’ve wasted their precious time and have had a less-than-wonderful experience with your company.

According to a North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey published by Forrester a few years ago, 71% of consumers agree that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good customer service. By being available and empathetic at times like these, teams can shine and ultimately win back a measure of the trust that was lost.

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