In Bad Economic Times, Being There for Your Customers Is Even More Important


Share on LinkedIn

With the dismal financial news that has hit us over the past few days, I’m worried. I thought I was doing well with my spending and my saving for retirement. But I don’t know what’s going to happen now. And I imagine that you, too, are concerned, both as individuals with financial burdens and as business people who worry that your company will get hit and your job might go away.

I’m sure you understand that your customers are equally concerned. There is already a lot of belt tightening on both the B2C and B2B fronts. Customers are going to consider, reconsider, and reconsider once again every purchase, including purchases currently in the works.

So what can you do…to protect your business, your job, and your customer relationships?

The first thing is what NOT to do. Don’t start cutting the funds for anything that impacts your customers’ experience with your brand. This is not to say that you shouldn’t, perhaps, rethink the VIP Customer Golf Outing on Maui. But I maintain that lavish perks aren’t what customers are going to want for a while.

Invest in Helping Your Customers Achieve Success
Now is the time to increase your commitment to creating great customer experiences with your products and services, nurturing customer relationships, and being partners in the success of your customers’ scenarios.

Recently, we were involved in an amazingly successful launch of a Customer Advisory Board made up of the senior executives of the provider’s top customers. True, the meeting was held at a luxury resort venue with spectacular views and an opportunity to play golf on the amazing course on the property. But it wasn’t any of these things that the customers talked about in the debrief of the two-day session. Rather, they talked about the openness of both their colleagues/competitors from other companies and the top execs from the host company, who, under non-disclosure, truly shared their vision of the future, even as they were modifying that vision in real-time as they listened to what their customers wanted and the challenges they were concerned about. Everyone enjoyed the camaraderie and the relationships that were created or enhanced. The customers liked the fact that there was no selling, but that the session was truly a meeting of the minds.

The sponsoring company was delighted with the session and the candid feedback from their customers. The dialogs were fast and furious. The insights were rich. And, yes, the food was great, the venue was spectacular, but, in the end, only two customers opted to play golf, but almost all the customers volunteered to work more closely with the provider on ideas for the future.

In truth, more than luxury, most customers are hungry for the opportunity to work with you as their providers on charting a clear course for the future—a course that would address the challenges of an uncertain economic climate and help prepare them for success in spite of it.

So take the time to truly figure out what your customers need from you and how you can best help them succeed.

Don’t Devalue the Relationships
And when you inevitably lose some business, as we all probably will until the next boom era, don’t sever the relationships with those customers. Don’t “downgrade” their status because they can’t spend as much with you. For example, before 9/11, I did tons of international travel for speaking engagements and consulting gigs. And then the world changed, and most of these engagements went away. I had achieved the top level on my preferred airline’s frequent flyer program, and I had become used to the perks associated. One year later, when I had booked almost no flights with them, I was downgraded to the basic program level. And they lost my loyalty. I no longer had any reason to book with that airline over any other, so I didn’t. If they had offered me at least some of the earlier perks, I would have stayed with them and given them a lot more business. Lately, I’ve been flying a lot, and I never seem to book with them. Looking at it now, I feel that they didn’t value my relationship on any level but purely financial, so I guess I am loath to hand them any money.

Continue to Focus on Creating User-Centric Products and Services
As you look at what budgets you can cut, make sure that the money for user-experience design is safe. As your customers look to streamline, they will only buy and upgrade products and services that provide superior value—and that means that the products do what they need them to do in the way they want to do it.

Share Their Pain
Finally, acknowledge that you are in this together. Work with your top customers to find ways through this difficult patch. Look at different payment models that can help customers stay competitive, but still pay their bills in the face of today’s economic pressures. Find product and service alternatives that provide the necessities, but cost less. These “lite” offerings may not fill your coffers as quickly, but you can retain the customer base, which will repay you with upgrades as soon as they are able. Be a valuable partner in bad times, and your stay a valued partner when times get better.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ronni Marshak
Patricia Seybold Group
Ronni Marshak co-developed Patricia Seybold Group's Customer Scenario® Mapping (CSM) methodology with Patricia Seybold and PSGroup's customers. She runs the CSM methodology practice, including training, certification, and licensing. She identifies, codifies, and updates the recurring patterns in customers' ideal scenarios, customers' moments of truth, and customer metrics that she discovers across hundreds of customer co-design sessions.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here