By Nick Alevetsovitis
The past six months have brought with them a great deal of change. Many businesses saw major disruptions as they managed the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns.
For some, this meant putting non-priority projects on hold. For others, it meant rapidly shifting resources – literally overnight in many cases – to serve employees and customers now doing almost all of their working and buying online. Other changes have been less obvious. Among them is the shift in how some businesses are approaching their overall customer experience.
Building awareness and loyalty with customers pre-COVID-19 was challenging enough amid the ever-growing expectations, the explosion in e-commerce and the rise of digital technologies, which forced the bar of what makes a good experience higher with each passing year. The challenge now is how to make the customer experience feel seamless at a time when the world is anything but. There is no one-size-fits all solution, but there are ways of re-assessing how to provide an optimal customer experience that can help leaders strike the right balance between deepening an existing relationship while also realizing their objectives. Here are a few that have worked for me and my team.
Focus on providing immediate, tangible value. In the days after the shutdowns first took effect, customers received messages from companies committing to supporting them through the difficult times. Reassuring communications were an important first step, but just as critical is the follow-through. In my mind, the most effective way to demonstrate to a customer that they are being truly supported is to offer them tangible value tailored for our current environment, and that’s easy for them to access.
My focus is on helping protect companies from cyber criminals, ensuring they have the right security strategy in place that balances the right technology and training. For us, a natural way to serve our community in the weeks following the onset of the pandemic was by making our catalogue of security courses available to them for free. A lot of our training is driven out of Ottawa but the program is of course global. The move clearly struck a chord. Course registrations jumped by 80,000 worldwide in the weeks following the announcement, not surprising given what we know about the landscape today. In a report we conducted this past summer, 83 percent of organizations said they found the shift to remote work to be moderately to severely challenging. This was at least in part due to the security implications of extending the secure network to include the home, and at a time when cybercriminals were becoming more aggressive.
The lesson here is to seek ways to provide resources to customers that will be helpful to them today, and in doing so, further gain their trust.
Aim to educate. Every organization works hard to balance the need to be present and available to their customers against communicating with them too much.
We’ve always placed a high priority on sharing the latest threat intelligence with our network of partners and customers. That commitment includes the expansion of our threat intelligence and research and development campus in Burnaby, B.C. years ago, adding to our existing Fortinet presence there already. That focus on threat intelligence around the world, not just Canada, has become even more important since the onset of COVID-19. Our FortiGuard Labs experts across the globe share regular reports on specific threats steaming from the confusion surrounding the pandemic so companies knew what steps to take. With security teams working hard to keep pace given the shift to remote work, providing the updated information they need to help protect their companies is another way to ensure our communications with them are informative, worthwhile experiences.
Not everyone will have similarly critical information to share. But companies should review what they are talking to their customers about, and look at it through the lens of education.
Stay relevant by being timely. Businesses are accustomed to moving quickly, but the onset of COVID-19 has raised the stakes. Seek ways to help them navigate this time of uncertainty by using your resources to help them stay ahead of the curve.
For us that has meant leaning into digital resources and ensuring we continue to post current, insightful information to help customers address the rapidly changing threat landscape and business challenges they have faced. While events have changed greatly in recent months, webinars, interactive calls still offer a chance for the community to interact in real time with security experts. It’s important to continue taking part in virtual gatherings to learn and network, especially for cybersecurity, and something we continue to prioritize. Speed is now of the essence and customers will appreciate it if they are getting information that’s fresh and current for the moment – data they can share with their colleagues throughout the organization. Take steps to help them stay plugged into current trends.
We’re still only months into the pandemic, but don’t assume what’s worked for your customers in the past will continue to resonate. Step back, look at what you’re providing, and make sure what you offer them makes their experience worthwhile.
Nick Alevetsovitis is VP, Enterprise and Commercial Sales, Canada for Fortinet.