The current barriers to face-to-face meeting is having minimal impact on work-at-home (WAH) processes, after all, WAH has always been a fully virtual experience from start to finish.
However, the process of buying and selling at-home services is typically still done in a traditional, in-centre environment. As in-centre operations start to come back online, measures put in place to ensure a safe working environment, could impact a buyer’s decision to travel.
When seeking out suppliers, buyers usually visit the company, meet the management team face to face, observe operations, and walk away with a clear, well-informed impression of the organisation and the offering.
Over the past few months, that vital step hasn’t been available to buyers. And, as much as we’d like to think that travel is going to be back on the agenda in the next couple of months, there are already signs that this might not be the case.
Localised lockdowns are now in place in hotspots across Europe and, according to travel industry forecasts, it will be another few years before capacities and schedules return to pre-Covid levels. Business managers are likely to be reluctant to let their staff travel unnecessarily.
As a result, buyers are having to adapt their approach to optimise results and minimise risk in a purely virtual environment.
Cut through the hype
Buyers will encounter sellers who will virtually be able to tell customers exactly what they want to hear, but might not necessarily have the goods to back it up. Equally, there will be sellers who have a great story, but might not be as skilled and persuasive in telling it.
Working virtually, it can be harder for buyers to determine who has the solution and who simply says they have the solution. In this situation, it’s important to ask the right questions, for example, can the tech platform that supports work-at-home deliver all service channels, including voice? How do you measure and manage agent performance in a home-based office? A support partner that offers true WAH services can supply data and analytics to support their proposal. And if the support will be done in-centre, a virtual tour of the site and its surroundings will be key for establishing the right work environment.
Build personal relationships
When buyers are able to physically go and inspect a building, they can instantly see how clean and tidy it is, whether it operates efficiently, and so forth. When visiting virtually, the process is more focussed on presentation and rapport.
To get a clearer idea about what’s on offer, buyers must get close to the people they are buying from and dig deeper into conversations about the experience, the operations, etc, rather than relying only on what they can see. This is also an important lesson for sellers, whom historically depend on the site visit for “showing off” and building relationships. Selling virtual requires thinking outside the box. It’s all about communicating and saying the right thing. After all, we know how easy it is to simply block or swipe left when someone says the wrong thing.
Speak to people on the ground
As well as speaking to executives and sales teams, buyers should speak to agents or team leaders to find out more about the day-to-day realities of the job. This might be a work-at-home agent, someone who is working from home at that moment, or an agent or team leader based back in-centre. These interviews shouldn’t be about that individual, or work situation, but seen by both parties as an opportunity to put their people, who are the heart of all customer service, central to the conversation.
In summary, buyers can still complete a thorough and comprehensive review of the proposal on offer. However, they must adapt their approach to overcome the challenges of virtual buying.