Be a Partner Your Customers Need During the Pandemic

A few key steps can turn short-term customers into long-term advocates.

August 14, 2020

5 Min Read
Customer Satisfaction

By Brian McCann


Brian McCann

No successful business operates in a vacuum. To meet the digital demands of today, organizations rely on vendors for everything. That means from simple storage solutions to complex digital ecosystems. In hindsight, the process of managing these customer relationships before the COVID-19 pandemic was relatively straightforward. Network security providers could focus on balancing cost and usability, the need for speed and the delivery of uninterrupted digital services. As long as you had the tools and analytics required to fulfill performance and security requirements, customers were satisfied.

However, like everything else, the pandemic has dramatically changed the relationship between service providers and their customers. As organizations have shifted their workforce and business channels to digital, our role in supporting those customers’ needs must shift, too.

Though being a great partner in a time of crisis does demand more, it is what clients need, and this extra effort turns short-term customers into long-term advocates. Here are some tips for how to best approach partnerships right now.

Be Quicker

Companies were already quickening the cadence of digital implementation before the pandemic. Now, digital strategies that might have mapped out over months or years have been replaced by initiatives that go live in a matter of days or weeks. Many initiatives that were until recently seen as a smart long-term play or a means to streamline efficiency and lower costs have suddenly become mission critical.

Executive teams are under extreme market pressure to digitalize business lines, and after witnessing successful examples from every industry over the last several months of scrambled rollouts executed quickly out of necessity, there’s an increasing willingness to move fast. Executives used to meticulously planned, phased and tested deployments suddenly face a dynamic where being overly careful may now be a recipe for failure, and getting it done quickly is the most prudent strategy. For many larger organizations, this represents a significant polarity shift to the standard IT orthodoxy.

Despite the will, many organizations don’t have the internal resources to execute right away. The only way to establish digital platforms quickly is through the support of third-party ecosystems. Leadership teams recognize this. Instead of focusing on what can be done internally, organizations are now looking to get the most they can out of partners.

Vendor partners need to be ready to implement solutions faster than ever. The perfect solution months down the road isn’t going to satisfy customers. Instead, drive lean and iterative development toward a minimum viable product.

Be Bolder

Digital transformation for many businesses was inevitable, but there was still a lack of urgency from management teams pre-crisis. The pandemic has changed that. Once-hesitant organizations leapt into action as uncertainty and volatility became the new normal.

As COVID-19 forces companies to embrace digital channels, now is the time to push for the bold digital efforts that will transform businesses for the better – especially if …

… they’ve resisted pursuing them in the past. It sounds counterintuitive, but companies have never been more aware of the value of digital offerings. Many are hyper-focused on delivering a virtual replacement for their previously physical offerings.

As a partner, you can help customers recognize the value in obtaining expanded services. Utilizing new digital platforms will give organizations access to markets and revenue streams they’ve never had before. As they re-evaluate every aspect of their online presence, it’s the perfect time to present the bold efforts that will best serve their organizations.

Be More Communicative

 Communication is critical to any successful client partnership. A lack of clarity on either side issues will surface. That’s no matter how effective your architecture or solution is. This is especially critical when implementing bold solutions quickly. Management teams want to know what is and is not working right away and don’t want to feel as though they’re being kept out of the loop. Technical issues are inevitable — slow or unclear communication that damages your reputation is avoidable.

The empathy required is what has made client communication during the pandemic different. Many once-healthy businesses are now struggling, and some contacts will be under an incredible amount of pressure. Check in with negatively impacted customers. Take the time to listen to their challenges and be there to offer advice. It’s possible that they may start to avoid communication as they struggle to make payments. Recognize these behaviors, get creative and give them a better option than immediately stopping service. Demonstrate that your company is a partner that can be relied on when times are tough.

Be More Analytical

With all eyes on digital efforts, customers want to be able to confidently assess the performance of new platforms and processes. Sourcing this information frequently and clearly will go far in demonstrating the quality of the work. Keep in mind that this may require some additional explanation to the non-tech audiences involved.

This is a time of flux and unpredictability. As a result, your internal teams may need to collect and review data more frequently. Though time consuming, report on key metrics as often as several times a week. This will help your partners best capture the shifting demands of their business. It will also help to better understand the evolution of the marketplace. And, get comfortable with new digital channels. It will demonstrate that you’re an effective partner who is interested in their business and their long-term success.

Adopting these practices will help digital vendors become ideal partners to the customers that desperately need support as they navigate this crisis. Nobody knows exactly what our new normal will look like, but going the extra mile to offer your support when its needed will strengthen trusted relationships and better position you and your partners for long-term success.

Brian McCann is executive vice president and president, security solutions, at Neustar. He is responsible for the company’s cloud-based and data-driven security solutions business. McCann has over 25 years of executive leadership experience in high-growth security and technology businesses. He served as president of the security solutions business unit at Netscout Systems. McCann was also CEO of Onpath Technologies before it’s sale to Netscout. Follow him on LinkedIn or @Neustar on Twitter.

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