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Jillian Kaplan

Successful Virtual Customer Engagement

Jillian Kaplan

  • Nov 10, 2020
  • 6 Min read
  • 61 Views
  • Nov 10, 2020
  • 6 Min read
  • 61 Views
Management
Value-driven Planning
Product Management
Strategy

Introduction

Many companies have traditionally depended on in-person interaction with their customers. That face-to-face, human connection is how they partner and close deals.

However, with COVID-19, almost all companies that can go virtual, have. That means that their only option to engage with customers is virtually. In this guide, we are going to discuss the best ways to create that human connection.

Types of Customer Engagement

Let’s start out by looking at the various types of customer engagement. Before we moved (not by choice) to a solely digital world, we were able to choose various types of communication with customers.

  • Email
  • Phone
  • In-person meetings
  • Virtual meetings
  • Trade shows
  • Social events

Let's break down each of these types of engagements and discuss how they have changed or stayed the same in the all-virtual world.

Phone

Phone communication is still available in a virtual world, but it has changed. The phone call has become very old fashioned. For example, do you ever call a friend and have them text you back? They may not enjoy the phone, or they could be multitasking. We are finding that in a digital world, the number of meetings has gone up by a massive percentage. So if someone is in a meeting on their phone or, more likely, their computer, they can text back but not call back. It seems like the virtual world is forcing us to multitask.

Before COVID, picking up the phone was more normal, but since everything has gone virtual, it’s harder and harder to get people on the phone and paying attention. If you want to connect with a customer on the phone, I recommend setting up a time to speak to them so that you can ensure they will pick up the phone and you will have their full attention.

In-person Meetings

In-person meetings have almost completely gone away with COVID. Before this, an in-person meeting was the way to go. You could ensure you had your customer’s full attention and you had a set time on the calendar. If you are face to face with someone, it’s very hard for them to pick up their phone and take another call or scroll the internet without appearing rude.

Right now, there is really no way to have a safe in-person meeting. So how can you replace this focused interaction? The answer is with virtual meetings.

Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings happened before this fully virtual world, but if you traveled for customer engagements for the reasons we spoke about in the previous section, you were better able to get their full attention.

How can you successfully duplicate this in a virtual setting? I recommend making sure everyone’s cameras are on. It is OK to put in the invite that you will have your camera on and would love if others did. It sets a good expectation and your customers will appreciate it.

Additionally, I recommend scheduling meetings for 45 or 50 minutes instead of an hour. This allows you a buffer if you run over and gives the customer the ability to get up from their desk and get a drink or use the bathroom before any subsequent meetings. We are so back to back to back with virtual meetings that having that five- to ten-minute break will be appreciated and noticed.

Trade Shows

Trade shows have always been how we sell, sell, sell, but the days of gathering tens of thousands of people in a hall are gone, at least for now.

There has been a pivot to virtual trade shows, but it’s important to realize that you are not going to have people's full attention. Just like a virtual meeting, there are 1,001 other distractions, and many times with a large trade show, you cannot have your camera on as it’s not an option.

However, what you can do is pare down the show so there isn’t so much content, which is done at a company level. From there, you can help customers identify sessions that are most relevant to them so they can take the time to pay attention to those sessions and give their full focus.

Social Events

Before this virtual world, social events were in person 100% of the time. You would never see a virtual social event. However, social events are extremely important to customer engagement because that is where you build relationships.

There is a way to replace these events to keep up this engagement and make it fun. For example, if you normally take your customers to dinner, you could do a virtual cooking event. Have the food and drink shipped to the customer's house and then have a chef cook live on Zoom. It creates a feeling of fun, brings your families in, and allows people to connect outside of work, which is extremely important right now. I highly recommend working to pivot your social events to a virtual format. There are so many options to do this.

Conclusion

COVID-19 has forced us to quickly move to almost 100% virtual communication. Usually, there is a learning curve when it comes to adopting new technology, but not this time. COVID has literally forced and accelerated our digital transformation. If you don't hop on board with virtual customer engagement, you won't have any way to engage with your customers. If you don’t engage with your customers, and your competitors do, you are going to lose your business. COVID has proven to be more than a simple "two-week slowdown." It's here for who knows how long, and it’s time to ensure that your virtual communications are successful.

I recommend that you review my course Developing Digital Fluency. It will teach you to speak a digital language and communicate successfully with both customers and internal stakeholders.

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