Running a small business during this economy is tough, and many business owners try to survive by cutting back. But now isn’t the time to skimp on quality or customer service.
While it’s essential to stay lean during a recession, you’ll doom your business the moment you sacrifice your customer’s buying experience. In fact, service and product quality should be elevated during tough times to build customer loyalty and grow revenue.
Cultivating strong customer connections through service can help you keep current customers, sell them more and seek their referrals. So what’s the key to connecting with customers? Integrity, honesty and communication.
Consider these do’s and don’ts to elevate the quality of your service and build enduring customer relationships.
DO keep your word
To ensure customer trust and loyalty, stay true to your company’s promises. With more competition and fewer buyers, the caliber of customers’ experience is critical. So continue providing them the quality products and top-notch service they’re used to.
DO boost value with little cost
By making just a few simple changes, customers get more for the same investment, customer affinity grows and your revenue improves. Some ideas:
- Include low book-valued items from inventory at no charge.
- Offer discounts on future purchases.
- Add features and functions already available with some of your other products.
- Bundle products and services.
- Let customers know when you provide increased value without a corresponding increase in price.
- Retain traditional sales deals. Canceling them turns off loyal customers, and they’ll go elsewhere.
DO empathize with customers
Show clients you understand that everyone is under pressure. But don’t throw caution to the wind. Some customers will ask for special pricing and terms and, if possible, accommodate their needs. Before accepting such requests, consider asking for longer-term agreements to lock in future business.
Yet when requests outweigh the value, it’s time to say “no.” It’s critical to cut costs during a recession, and customers understand that.
DO exude confidence through quality
Down times are the perfect times to demonstrate your competitive edge. While others cut back on people, marketing and service, you can step in and create confidence and certainty in your brand. Your integrity and image will directly affect your success, now and in the future.
DO communicate constantly
Keeping customers happy by staying in tune with their needs will not only build loyalty but also allow you to capture more market share as less savvy competitors stumble. So inform customers when their products ship and provide advance notice of delays. Send updates and respond quickly to requests. Clearly communicate return and refund information. Follow up to ensure satisfaction, and don’t forget to send a heartfelt thank-you. It really goes a long way.
DON’T cut quality to save a buck
Don’t skimp on things that could sour customers’ buying experience. Quality of goods and services must remain high, so don’t switch suppliers just because someone else can do it cheaper. You usually get what you pay for, and your customers will notice.
If you need to reduce costs, talk to suppliers and seek their help. Chances are, they don’t want to lose your business either, and they’ll work extra hard to offer you better pricing, terms or upgrades.
DON’T let veteran employees go
Experience matters. Don’t fire your higher-paid “front-line” employees and replace them with cheaper, untrained labor. It’s better to have fewer, higher-paid professionals than a full crew of average talent. Customers expect a high-quality shopping experience, impeccable service, and enthusiastic, knowledgeable sales and support personnel. By maintaining quality, customers will respect your integrity and dedication to their needs, producing loyalty for years to come.
Source: FedEx Small Business Center, https://smallbusiness.fedex.com/customer-service-ideas.html