Covid-19 has created a tough season for every business. And companies in the business services domain face bigger challenges as they are dependent on clients to stay functional—and vice versa. For many organisations, the discussion boils down to: How do we interact with our clients in this situation? And how do we keep our and clients’ business running?

In these unprecedented times, with companies having to shift to remote engagement, the major challenge for many organisations is to maintain a continuous client connect. In a B2B scenario, client interactions require seamless and secure communication and collaboration. So, it boils down to providing a differentiated experience to clients. Taking it further, it’s about what companies can do to help existing clients, retain them, and probably win more.

This is an opportunity for businesses to break out of legacy systems and develop a more agile approach to client engagement. For example, companies hosted thousands of client visits pre-Covid. Apart from enabling better business discussions, these visits enable personalised interaction and business intimacy—in short, a ‘personal connect.’ Though these visits have mostly stopped, business isn’t at a standstill. Moreover, business needs continue.

Let’s look at three ways companies can engage with clients and drive business in these difficult times.

1. Enabling differentiated CX via phygital engagement

2. Leading with Thought Leadership content

3. Showcasing employee and community connect

Today, every organisation is undergoing some form of change—creating a new service offering, trying new business channels, or developing a strategic approach for a new campaign. This is an opportunity for organisations to revise their business models for clients and show how you can maintain it until things return to normal. As Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, said, “Chaos is an opportunity for innovation.”

In the Covid era, business interactions are about providing a differentiated client experience—not just an artificial connect but also emotional. And this is a time to get your organisation’s digital transformation rolling. Shutdowns and restrictions on client interactions are an opportunity to go phygital and enable virtual visits wherever possible.

Live streaming of ‘client show and tell’—where we can deploy AR / VR to present a 3D view of solutions —addresses much of what clients are missing. This makes the experience seamless, interesting, and informative. Through this, clients can see the technology in action, and we can enable AR to turn an ordinary business card into a full-motion visual business pitch. It fulfills the objective of ensuring engagement quotient is high, as well as to assess client reactions.

Along with phygital engagement, organisations should up their content marketing game—through digital events, webinars, research reports, etc. The reason? Traditional models of client engagement are taking a different shape, with investments and ideas going into TL. Show your authenticity as a thought leader by providing your audience the information they want— and in the form they prefer. The idea is to provide smart and short proof points. For example, to showcase your expertise in digital solutions, provide proof points that are impactful and attributable to the digital skills of your organisation.

For example, organisations with inhouse research forums regularly bring out reports on Covid impact across different industry domains, based on market and client requirements. These have resonated well with audiences. Companies that have always led with research and Thought Leadership can make their content sharper and more interactive to help clients find the data they need more easily. The idea is to provide sharper and leaner content, because ‘less is good… and still gains attention.’

Covid-19 has also brought companies’ employee engagement programs center stage. But how is it connected to client engagement? As the focus on employee well-being, productivity, and resilience increases, clients want to ensure their business partners are doing the best in employee engagement, community connect, etc. And this isn’t for business reasons – we’re seeing a genuinely altruistic motive in clients in the welfare of employees of their business partners.

At another level, community work is a huge mental support for people—like donating ICU beds for stretched government institutions during Covid-19 or supplying medical supplies and safety equipment to frontline workers. In fact, volunteer programs are a powerful form of employee engagement. Clients want to see more of this because they know nothing helps employees more than helping others.

Partnerships built in adversity last forever

Overall, empathy is the best form of engagement during tough situations. As you look at things from clients’ perspective, it’s also a season to humanize. The overriding motive should be to collaborate with clients and not confront them. This is probably the time to go soft on that budget demand or give some leeway to pay that invoice, even as you continue your services uninterrupted.

The key point while encountering a situation of this magnitude is to show clients your company can show ownership of the situation, not allow it to dominate you or your clients, and stand by them throughout. Ultimately, it isn’t just about surviving as businesses ourselves, but helping our clients survive… and thrive.

In short, convey to your clients: We are in this together.

Views are personal. The author is, chief marketing officer and chairperson, diversity – India, Capgemini.

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