We have seen a significant shift in business development, company culture, and the way we have had to adapt our solution delivery to better serve our Dynamics 365 customer base.
Back in March, we wrote an article about the importance of being agile and flexible during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s now been 6 months since we went into lockdown and organizations across the world were forced to adapt to a new way of life. We’ve taken a step back to reflect on the significant changes we’ve noticed as a result of the crisis, and in turn the impact that remote work has had on our business and customers.
One of the fascinating things we’ve noticed is that geographic location appears to be less of a barrier to entry when it comes to attracting and winning new business. In the past, we have typically noticed that the consulting industry is very regional when it comes to prospects wanting local consultants. Even though we have customers from Atlantic Canada through to Vancouver Island, we have definitely become more viable in locations outside of our Vancouver base. We are starting to work with businesses in Toronto and Calgary because the new reality is that people have the flexibility and willingness to work remotely with other businesses.
Catapult has always been flexible when it comes to remote work options for its employees, with many of our leading consultants working remotely before the pandemic even struck. We are a digital business, which means we are fortunate to have the technology and infrastructure in place to collaborate and continue providing support in all the usual ways. In that regard, things haven’t really changed from an operational perspective for our team. Even before the pandemic hit, much of our solution delivery was done remotely and we continue to operate that way. But what we have seen is a huge change for our customers, and how they’ve adapted and required our support.
"We have to make sure we are there for our customers because there is much more need to foster the spirit of communication and collaboration. We have to be mindful of having a personal touch for every engagement and interaction."
The approach we traditionally took when kick-starting projects with customers has changed. Before COVID-19, we would typically start projects in person but now it’s all conducted remotely. We have had to help train our customers on the increased usage of technology like Teams and SharePoint to really centralize our engagement and communication around projects. Regardless of the pandemic, moving our customers to Teams has always been part of our strategy. If nothing else, the pandemic has led to further adoption of the communication platform – anyone on the Microsoft Ecosystem now knows how to use it. We have also seen vast improvements in Teams itself, with Microsoft’s upcoming Wave 2 release promising more integration between Business Central and Teams, and in turn making it easier to surface data.
"Microsoft have really improved the Teams platform as they have been forced to adapt and continuously get better. COVID-19 hasn’t just forced us as a consulting firm and our clients to adapt, but it’s changed how software operates because it needs to be more robust than it was 6 months ago."
In our experience, we have found that customers almost always prefer to have someone present to make them feel comfortable with a new delivery method. This has made it even more important for us to ensure that customers understand what we are communicating as we can no longer gauge their in-person reaction. One great thing that we’re noticing is that many of our customers are less reserved when communicating remotely. Of course, we have to tackle poor internet connection and fun things like that! But other than that, it’s actually been a huge plus in terms of engagement.
"It definitely puts the onus on us to push and probe to make sure customers are following along. Extra effort is needed to make sure all participants are on the call and understand what’s going on. With that being said, I have seen people engage more. In fact, I have noticed some of our customers feel more emboldened and comfortable to ask questions when on a remote call rather than in person."
From our delivery standpoint, software configuration, basic QA and ongoing support has always operated remotely – it hasn’t mattered where our consultants are as long as they’re in front of a screen! It’s when we get to the testing stage and need to train end users where we have really started to see a difference. We noticed that customers were a little hesitant to do virtual trainings at first, but over the last few months they have become more receptive. In fact, we’re noticing that remote trainings are actually a lot more popular than in person. We’re now able to record sessions and provide the file as an ongoing training material for our customers. The feedback that we have received has been extremely positive and many of our customers refer to training recordings as a guide.
We no longer have a consultant on site when customers go–live and some of our customers have found it a huge adjustment having to communicate through a channel of different platforms rather than in person. There’s no doubt that having everything online takes some getting used to, but we have noticed that providing the right support has empowered our customers to get much better at using the tools available to them.
"It’s easier to jump in and quickly help our customers with an issue because they’re becoming used to technology instead of waiting for an in-person meeting. This means no delay in delivering services and we can quickly resolve any issues."
The ongoing support and hypercare that we provide our customers after go–live has not changed. We have always had a customer support portal that was designed as a centralized platform for back and forth communication. Our customers receive the same thorough and consistent level of support service as they did pre-pandemic.
In summary, we can’t deny that there’s been significant changes in the way that we have had to support our customers during these surreal times. There has also been changes internally when it comes to our own company culture. It’s not just communication with our customers that has changed but the way we engage with each other has evolved. Although it sounds strange, COVID-19 has strengthened our culture with many team members checking in more regularly than they did before. Our ERP and CRM consulting teams have daily check-ins to see how projects are evolving and how everyone is doing. This type of communication didn’t happen as regularly before and we’re finding that this additional level of internal support is strengthening relationships.
Nobody knows what the next 6 months, year, or even longer might bring. But we hope that this article has shed some light on how we are continuing to respond to the crisis in order to best support our customers in every way that we can.