During COVID-19 Pandemic, Companies Must Change How They Support Customers, Panelists Say

Panelists at an Internet Creations (Hamilton) virtual event emphasized the need to continue giving quality support to their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses shift from deploying road warriors for sales and support to bringing those functions inside.

The event was moderated by Felisa Palagi, who had been elevated to Internet Creations CEO on April 15, 2020.

One of the four panelists, Sandro Viselli, vice president for customer success at Ascent Cloud (Detroit), for example, told Palagi that his team is working with the leadership of his client companies to help them understand that they can convert a lot of what they’re doing to remote work and still be as productive as they were formerly. His company is coaching customers to try to make them more agile, Viselli said.

Ascent Cloud is having success in helping its customers by demonstrating how to leverage technologies like Webex, Zoom and Salesforce, as well as some of its own products. “We continue to do that, and we’re excited about that opportunity,” he said.

Andy Roethler, director of customer and order administration at Integrated DNA Technologies (Coralville, Iowa), was another panelist at this webinar. His company produced among the first testing kits to be approved for use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Roethler said that his company is in a period of high stress due to the demand for its COVID-19 product and the need to adjust to remote work.

As the lab staff at the company’s manufacturing plant are considered to be essential employees, they continue to come to work, he noted. “But all the office employees, such as my team, work from home, so we’ve had to get very creative with how we collaborate with the different teams, while going through some very unprecedented customer requests. … We are leveraging technology and getting creative and making sure that we somehow stay in front of everything as best we can with this evolving situation, while trying to help get [test] kits out as quickly as possible.”

Gadi Vered, director of customer support at OwnBackup (Englewood Cliffs), said that his company touches almost every industry that uses Salesforce. OwnBackup provides backup for Salesforce data, protects against data infection and offers a quick data-restoration process. He noted that some industries are doing quite well, even during the pandemic. However, many companies are using this time to adjust their business-continuity plans, as well as their disaster-recovery plans. “We found out, more than ever, we can position OwnBackup as a key component that can augment, or help be part of, that continuity plan to secure their data in the cloud.”

Anthony McCullough, director of Global Salesforce CRM at AGCO Corporation (Duluth, Ga.), one of the largest agricultural equipment manufacturers in the world, told the webinar participants that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. One of his company’s manufacturing plants in China, which was shut down in January, came back online in March and is operating at 100 percent capacity again.

Managing Remote Teams

Ascent Cloud’s Viselli also provided some advice on managing remote teams. There are at least three or four key behaviors that you want them to engage in every day, and that you want to be able to report to the management team, he said. “So, if you were an outside salesperson, let’s say, you’re used to making five visits a week, let’s make sure that you go ahead and schedule those five calls a week, or 10 calls a week, now that you’re remote.”

The management teams are making sure salespeople are making those calls,  while offering the sales and support personnel lots of coaching. “How do you deal with a phone call conversation differently than you would have a site visit?” he asked rhetorically. “The type of conversation that they will have might be a little bit different. The things you might talk about might be different,” he noted.

The panelists said that they are working on ways to keep their own teams motivated, and at least one of them said that his company is offering teams virtual happy hours and other opportunities to get together virtually. He noted that it’s important to keep everyone focused, motivated and in good spirits.

A few of the panelists said that they wished they had thought more clearly about how to move the company to remote work before the pandemic struck, so that they could have just “flipped a switch” and everyone could have cleared out of the building.

Palagi noted that her company had a plan, and the business is relatively diversified, with both apps and implementation services. “But I don’t know we had accounted for a pandemic,” she said wryly.

One panelist said that lost conversations, like those that used to take place in the hall or at lunch, can get overlooked in Slack. He said that his company is mining this data in Salesforce to try to ensure that customers’ needs aren’t overlooked because there is “so much chatter going on.”

Predicting the future, some of the panelists agreed that, once the COVID-19 outbreak is over, the business world will see fewer companies deploying as many sales and support people on the road as they had in the past.

Businesses will have learned lessons from COVID-19, and now understand how to get the same results by using inside sales and support, as well as tech tools. “There definitely won’t be as much visiting customers as we are used to,” one panelist said.

To watch a video of this discussion, visit https://www2.internetcreations.com/Supporting-Customers-Right-Now-On-Demand.html.

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