Countless organizations and business leaders have had to quickly adapt to a ‘new normal’ as the COVID-19 pandemic forced professionals around the world work remotely. This comes with a number of challenges, and really highlights the need to take care of your existing clients – both as businesses and as people. And it has also presented organizations and individuals with opportunities for growth.
We recently caught up with our Senior Vice President of Customer Engagement, Ché van Heerden, to find out how she is navigating this period as a leader, how it has impacted her team and clients, what opportunities she has embraced, and what advice she can offer to other leaders.
How are Qorus clients are handling this crisis period?
Some of our clients have experienced a slowdown in pace over this time, but on a positive note, many of them are really taking advantage of this opportunity to straighten out things on their end in terms of the way they manage their Sales and Proposal content.
Of course, in our product suite, content is king, so we’re pleased to see so many clients take the time to better organize their content so that they are ready to go when things pick up again.
We’re getting a lot of support questions around how to keep content fresh, how to tackle a rebrand, and so on. So, I think they’re also going to come out of this crisis period raring to go and in better shape than what they came in.
How has the relationship with your clients changed during this period?
Something that has made such a huge difference, that you might not think would, is turning our cameras on during online meetings. We’ve been doing this recently and have found that it has had an unbelievable impact on the relationship with our customers. The fact that we’re all working from home, and our customers are also coming to terms with working with their own peers and colleagues in this way, has made it feel more natural.
We’ve worked with some customers for six or seven years and hadn’t seen their faces until now. It has introduced such a human side to our engagement and – since we’re all dealing with restrictions, kids at home, dogs barking in the background, or whatever the case – it has given us all a common thread. So, we’re more inclined to see one another as humans, rather than just as customers or vendors. This has made conversation so much easier and has deepened our relationships to a large extent. It has been such a nice side effect, so we’ve said, going forward, that it’ll be our default.
Have there been any silver linings for clients?
This period – where so many businesses are cutting costs and trying to stay afloat – has really given us the chance to ask the right questions of our clients and to come up with creative solutions. We’ve been able to share some really neat ways in which our products add value to clients, specifically in our current circumstances, where Sales, Bid and other highly collaborative teams need to work on content remotely.
Through this experience, we’ve also been able to sharpen our value proposition, which has been a great outcome for the entire business.
For some context, were you and your team accustomed to working remotely pre COVID-19?
Because our clients are spread out across the globe and Qorus is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington (while many of our Customer Support Managers are based in Cape Town, South Africa), we’re used to working with others from a distance. But, for many of my team members, working remotely has really been quite a jolt. My team and I are extraverted by nature, so it has been a challenge not having daily interactions with colleagues, in the office.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered leading your team remotely and how have you overcome these?
A situation like this can really expose any flaws that you might have in your processes, especially the ones that are nicely hidden when you work together in one area. Think of your communications process, for example.
When you’re in an office, you have the advantage of in-person conversation. You pick up bits of information – you overhear things; have quick chats as you pass one another’s desks or grab coffee – and messages inevitably get passed along. But, when your entire team is spread out, working remotely, that’s not necessarily the case. RACI charts have become my go-to to make sure everyone understands who needs to be informed of what.
But, aside from introducing solutions for our current situation, I’ve viewed this as an opportunity to enhance internal processes for the long term. I’ve used this time to upgrade systems and document processes, and make them accessible to all of my team members.
This has been an awesome opportunity for us to tighten up on those areas. And, when we go back to ‘normal’, in the post COVID-19 world – whenever that may be – I think we’ll be even more effective and efficient, so that’s definitely something positive that has come out of this.
What impact has this had on Qorus leaders and teams more broadly?
I believe our team leads are coping remarkably well under the circumstances. Some team members are struggling at home with the loss of interaction, but productivity is really, really high so our current circumstances have highlighted the fact that we’ve hired great people from a work ethic perspective.
We’ve always appreciated the fact that our people aren’t clock watchers. Working for a global company across different time zones, you sort of expect some work after hours, but our team members just go next level. So, it’s all been relatively smooth sailing from that perspective.
Any words of advice for team members and fellow leaders to follow during this time?
I think it’s so important to make sure you have some boundaries at home, in terms of work-life balance. Because not all of us are used to working remotely, it can be really difficult to strike a balance. Especially among those with high work ethic, it’s tricky to draw a line in the sand at times, and this can become even more challenging when the type of work you do doesn’t fit in with the ‘nine-to-five’ model.
Adding to that, I think it’s really important for leaders to be aware of shifts in their team members’ schedules. Even those who have more of a ‘nine-to-five’ work pattern have had to adapt to entirely new circumstances, and everyone’s situation is different – some have to home school their children or have to juggle other responsibilities that make it impossible for them to work the same hours as before. We need to keep this in mind.
It’s also really important to make sure we’re checking in on one another, especially since this crisis has had a real impact on people’s mental health. As I mentioned earlier, some people are struggling without interaction with their colleagues; some employees have started a new role during this period and haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet their colleagues – we’re all facing unique challenges.
As leaders, we have to be adaptable and we need to keep innovating to make sure we make the most out of what can and can’t be controlled.
The Qorus difference
Ché van Heerden leads our award-winning Customer Success Team. If you asked our customers what they really love about Qorus, most of them would say they love their Customer Success Manager and they love how responsive our teams are. It’s one of the reasons our software enjoys such high adoption rates.
Find out more about how the team works here.