Shawn Casemore is an expert in customer experience, who prepares companies, their leaders and teams for breakthrough growth and performance. Shawn has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as CN Rail, Tim Horton’s, and Pepsi Co, however he invests the majority of his time working with some of the fastest growing and dynamic mid-market companies, including Bellwyck Packaging, Gerson and Gerson Incorporated and Saje Natural Wellness. At a time when many leaders were uncertain, Shawn connected with his clients to build winning strategies in customer experience throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We sat down to discuss how stories from the pandemic lead to lessons on how business owners and executives should navigate unknown situations.
- TEC Canada: When the pandemic first hit, businesses across sectors were significantly impacted, and had to pivot fast. Some leaders adapted quicker than others. What set these leaders apart?
Shawn Casemore: As a leader, you have to set aside how you feel as an individual. In the first weeks of the pandemic, I went into a car dealership – they had the distanced circles on the ground, staff in masks and offering free masks, employees providing hand sanitizer etc. Minutes later, I went into a more reputable dealership across the street who had none of the above except for a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the corner. It struck me in that experience; very similar companies, competing for the same customers are approaching this situation so differently and it’s because we are impacted by the situation first as individuals. The leaders who succeeded understood that regardless of how you feel internally, you have to offer options to your consumers. COVID-19 has evolved customers expectations of businesses in how we interact with them; leaders must be prepared to cater to even more.
Early on, many businesses said, ‘we’re here to protect the well-being of our employees,’ and while that’s important, what about your customers? For example, you see variance in how restaurants are operated, if I was the owner, I would do everything in my power to open inside, outside, at the bar, takeout etc. to serve every type of customer.
- TC: Effectively expressing your commitment to your clientele can be difficult. What did winning companies do to communicate this and what can others learn from this?
SC: They called their customers and suppliers. Everyone else sent emails – you won’t stand out doing what your competitors are doing. I set the communication process up with the sales manager for one of my manufacturing clients, where we went through their entire customer list, set up phone calls and then sent a follow-up email. They received a 40% response rate, much higher than businesses who sent just emails. Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to pick up the phone, you build a much better connection and you can have some real purpose in those conversations – what are their plans for opening, how this has affected their business etc.
- TC: By assessing leaders, what type of individuals did you see succeed in customer experience the past few months?
SC: The methodical leader – the one who didn’t jump to conclusions right away. I frequently use the *DiSC Assessment Tool and while leaders are well-balanced with a drawing towards the Dominance quadrant, the ones who handled this pandemic the best had a strong inclination for Conscientiousness – ensuring accuracy, opportunities to gain knowledge, maintaining stability etc. The most effective leaders understand their weaknesses and are comfortable leaning on others to get the job done. Business owners and executives should know where they fall on the spectrum so they can work towards balance while committing towards precision and analysis.
- TC: What should leaders learn from the government mandated lockdown that they can carry forward in their business?
- Communicate early. Many times, leaders won’t want to say anything because they’re afraid they will freak people out, but in silence, people start to get nervous and wonder why leadership isn’t aware of potential developments. Even if you have nothing to say, inform your team that you’re monitoring the situation regardless if you think the problem won’t impact you; it will be the single greatest contributor to high moral and high engagement.
- Your capabilities are beyond what you’ve done in the past. Businesses who identified shifts in the markets knew how to capitalize on pockets of opportunity. Throughout the pandemic and continuing on, people are spending more time on social media – Facebook ads have shown to produce incredible returns for their pricing. If you can look at what you’ve done in the past, shift to meet the demand while not compromising your operations, you should be able to find success.
*DiSC: DiSC is a behaviour assessment tool done through a series of questions used primarily in team building to determine why someone is who they are. It increases ones’ self-knowledge – how you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, how you solve problem etc.