Thought leadership: Building positive business relationships with clients in a post-pandemic world
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that many of us had to quickly adapt to new ways of working. This was a particular need to ensure ongoing successful business relationships between a brand and its customers.
Before the pandemic, our client-facing teams typically held meetings almost 100% face-to-face, often in the heart of London, to cement strong working relationships.
We are passionate about having happy customers and giving them excellent customer service. Building strong working relationships is at the heart of what we do. Here we discuss how we do that, whether it takes place in person or virtually, and how we can maintain and drive forwards those relationships to ensure we remain the brand of choice.
Building positive business relationships with clients in a post-pandemic world
The insurance market has always prided itself on being relationship driven, from its very beginnings in the coffee shops in the City of London to today’s virtual world. In recent years, however, the traditional ways of doing things have been put to the test by the modernisation of the market and the advent of more sophisticated, efficient technology. And the COVID-19 pandemic of course, shifted the way people across all industries worked.
The almost overnight move to remote working for many of us meant finding new ways to communicate, interact and build relationships. And even as we begin to return to more hybrid ways of working, the need for online business relationship-building capabilities and skills will likely remain, long-term.
At VIPR, the Account Management team is the main point of contact for all our clients and typically has regular monthly meetings with them, as well as more ad-hoc sessions as and when needed. In a way, the team is the ‘Voice of the Client’, an internal representative within the company about products and services. What our clients require and want to see develop moving ahead is articulated by them. In short, our account management team is the advocate for the clients in making sure that what we deliver aligns with their business strategy and expectations.
Prior to the pandemic, a client-facing role was almost entirely built around physical face-to-face meetings. Remote meetings were the minority – partly because of the traditional ways the market works, and partly because it was so much less common for anyone, in any business, to have remote meetings if face-to-face was possible.
With the global lockdown and the lasting effects of the pandemic, a lot of companies have chosen to work and interact on a hybrid basis. Luckily, we discovered that – so long as you remember the values of relationship-building and why you are doing it – it’s very possible to build, maintain and nurture business relationships virtually.
During the pandemic, we recognised the need to keep our clients engaged, and realised that harnessing automation and technology to drive connection was a lot easier than expected. For example, we decided that our ‘User Group’ – an event attended by all our existing clients, where typically guest speakers present and run interactive sessions, and key VIPR management present the latest offering and roadmap, new hires and so on – would take place virtually.
Usually this in-person event would be a great chance for clients to network and mingle and learn about the latest tech news and trends at VIPR. Going virtual was challenging but we were able to put together an exceptional event, enabling our clients to have that interaction, and the chance to hear from VIPR and be a soundboard of feedback – even though we were unable to meet face-to-face.
Moving forwards, a hybrid situation is emerging; remote working has enabled some employees to have more frequent meetings with clients, which has been especially useful during the unprecedented times we have been living through. Now that many of our clients are returning to the office space, for at least some of the working week, our Account Management team is beginning to have more face-to-face meetings again. Some conversations will always be easier to have in a face-to-face environment and it’s all about finding the right balance. Understanding your clients’ needs and finding ways to establish and maintain relationships in a way that suits all is the right direction.
Open and honest
Wherever meetings take place – remotely, in an office or over a coffee – the most important element of business relationship-building has always been trust. Transparency and honesty are real watchwords at VIPR. Ensuring that we have shared values is important and we need to be able to understand what our clients require.
It’s only by having open and honest discussions that we can understand what our clients want, and they can understand what we can offer. Providing our clients with regular updates helps to demonstrate to our clients they are always front of mind for us at VIPR. We make sure they know they can always pick up the phone, email or arrange to meet in person at any time. We are here to ensure we eliminate their pain points so they don’t have to concern themselves with these everyday challenges.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communicating regularly as a company with customers helps to maintain these relationships too. Breaking news, newsletters and social media communications are great ways of making sure our clients keep up to date with what we are doing.
As well as communicating about new products and services, we make sure we talk regularly to clients about our company strategy to ensure we are well aligned – after all, we are here to serve them, and their needs. This builds longevity; if we understand where our clients want to get to, we can help them get there more easily and faster. It’s not just about the sales process. It’s about keeping in touch, feeding back, and doing what we say we will do, long-term.
The pandemic has had lasting effects on the way we live and work, there is no doubt about that, and it has certainly had an impact on the way the insurance market does business today. The pandemic demonstrated that the insurance market can work in different ways and that there may be some very real benefits in doing so for the longer term. Client Account Management is founded upon building and maintaining relationships, those fundamentals of trust and transparency will remain key now and always.