Fenestration Focus May/June 2020July 22nd, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
Changing Faces: What Does Customer Care Look Like Now?
By Larry Johnson
By now, it would already be a cliché to start this column by discussing how the coronavirus has changed the way we do business. But I’m going to say it anyways because it’s true.
Just about every lens through which we traditionally view our businesses—our regular operations, our production strategies, our manufacturing capacities and demand for our products—has radically changed over the course of this pandemic. In the process, adaptability and resiliency have been key.
Things have changed quickly. The nature of magazine publishing dictates that you’ll read my words about a month or so after I’ve written them. It’s quite possible there have been some significant shifts in economic activity and consumer demand by that time (especially the way things have been going).
Which brings me to something that won’t change, and something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: the importance of customer care. It’s one of the most important things we can do this year. Here are some things I think we can do.
Remember: Safety comes first. We’re an industry that has always put safety first, but it might not have always been the first subject that comes to mind when we think about “customer care.” Today, with concerns about viral spread and ensuring we’re taking the necessary safety and social distancing measures, that’s changed. That means some of the most traditional ways we interface with customers aren’t options right now. In-person meetings are likely on an as-needed basis.
I think here it’s important to remember two things: 1) These measures, while inconvenient, are necessary parts of organizational commitments to safe operation, and 2) there are still creative ways we can demonstrate high-quality customer service and connection. Virtual connection, for example, has become a common way we’re interacting with each other both professionally and personally. It won’t be this way forever, but for now, it’s worth thinking deeply about how we can maintain safe, meaningful customer interactions.
Empathy is important. Customer conversations right now aren’t always going to be easy, nor are they going to necessarily result in a sale. And that’s okay.
I think our industry collectively realizes that we’re all going through something together, and “business as usual,” at least as we knew it, probably won’t fully resume for a while. Customer care at this time might not mean solving a customer need or challenge by selling them on a solution. Showing that you’re there to provide support in whatever way they might need right now can make a lasting impact.
Be ready when your customers are ready. Of course, maintaining a regular cadence of communication with your customers might require striking a delicate balance. Those who have limited operations, or are uninterested in making the investment in new windows during the crisis, probably don’t want to be bothered with sales calls at the moment.
But staying close can be important and will help keep you ready and prepared for when those customers are ready to resume.
Flexibility and resiliency will be important. Control what you can control. Stay in close contact with your suppliers and keep inventory at appropriate levels. You don’t want to be caught unprepared when your customer tells you they’re ready to move on an order.
Customer care is always important—but it’s especially important at this moment. I hope we can all continue to think about creative ways to continue providing that level of care when it’s needed the most.
Larry Johnson is vice president of sales, North American fenestration, for Quanex Building Products
To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.