Working from anywhere: more customer-centric than ever

Working from home (WFH) has been one of the biggest trends to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. But what comes next, and how does the changing nature of work affect how we engage with customers?

The pandemic forced a lot of changes onto business. It changed how we work, where we work, even when we work. Flexible hours became more common, with many people saying they were happy to answer emails and take phone calls in the evening, if it meant a little more time with their kids during the afternoon. Trade-offs and compromises occurred in all kinds of areas, as we adjusted to a new world. It’s been interesting, and challenging.

One thing that hasn’t changed is just how essential it is to maintain relationships with customers. While our own companies may have been changed beyond recognition, your customers’ worlds have been turned upside down, too.

The changing nature of how we engage

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my sales teams engage with Orange customers. I’ve been talking to my sales teams, too, to get a feel for what they are going through and what they’re thinking. Some workers’ productivity is based around being in the office at a desk, and they have to be present to do their jobs.

However, salespeople are judged directly on results. They spend their working lives primarily needing to engage and interact with customers. As such, salespeople don’t necessarily need to be in the office to get results. As the customer focus is the number one priority, always ask yourself: “To do my best for my customer, does it matter where I am?”

It’s less about location than mentality. My customer wants X, and I can get that to them irrespective of where I am. Customer focus has been sharpened during the COVID-19 crisis, and it’s made sales teams rethink priorities and change ways of working to fit them.

These changing working patterns have helped some of my teams to enjoy a better work/life balance. Without the need to commute into the office on a regular basis, which for some of us living in the suburbs takes up to two hours one way, staff have actually been able to spend more time with customers. That might be in person if they’re located close enough, but is typically via video calls or videoconferences. My salespeople have been able to use the lockdown period to focus more than ever on customers and engage with them more consistently.

Earlier this year, there was a Gartner article that looked at nine potential future work trends in a post-COVID-19 world. Not one of them mentioned the word customer, which struck me as unusual. We have a chance to reevaluate how we work, and now, many of my sales teams spend more time with their customers than they did before. This seems like a positive development. And we’re seeing the results: not one of my Russia salespeople is selling less than they were before the lockdown.

It’s about how you spend your time, not where

One of my salespeople, Slava Khrenov, is now spending more time than ever with his customers. Without the need to commute into the office, he has more time to allocate to the customer. Slava even went as far as making a short video to show how effective his WFH set-up is now and to demonstrate how digital has empowered him.

At Orange, we’ve long fostered a customer-centric mentality in our teams, but I have found that COVID-19 has created an environment that sharpens that thinking. And our salespeople now have a different set of rules by which to work and are evolving how they engage with customers by themselves.

They’re changing the rules to put the customer front and center even more than before. It’s fascinating. And, as research by Deloitte found, if customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus sufficiently on customers, it seems like a smart way forward.

Read more about how Orange Business Russia is helping companies with digital transformation and remaining resilient through the COVID-19 emergency.

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David Holden
David Holden

David Holden is Chief Commercial Officer for Orange Business Russia. He has a wealth of experience in the technology industry, with particular focus on telecoms. Today David’s role encompasses the Internet of Things, digital transformation across multiple verticals and many other areas of digital technology. He enjoys traveling and the multinational and multicultural nature of his job.