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With the current world-wide financial crisis and high inflation, your customers do not have as much money in their pockets as they used to have. They are cutting back on spending, their budgets are frozen, and they are being more cautious about where they spend their money. Customers are evaluating all options before spending their money.

Companies selling to these customers are becoming more nervous because of this, so they too are cutting back and freezing budgets as their revenue decreases due to more cautious customer spending. But where should they cut back?

Strategically when times are good you grow, you acquire more customers and promote your company heavily. However when times get tough and customers are scarce you focus on your existing customers and work hard to keep them with you and cross sell and up sell as a way of increasing your revenue. You treat them like a scarce resource (which they are) and pull out all stops for them to ensure they stay with you.

Customer Experiences What to do in an Economic Downturn

Sooner or later companies must realise their revenue source is not their products, but rather their customers who buy their products. Those companies that invest in their customers right now will be able to survive this downturn and will come out stronger than before. In fact they will possibly thrive, especially if their competitors are focusing on cost cutting and not investing in their customers.

Companies are also beginning to realise that customers do not grow on trees. With this tough economy the customer pool is shrinking; companies have to fight for fewer customers and it is even harder to replace customers that leave. Now companies have to focus on their existing customers and protect them from leaving or stop them from being poached by the competition.

Now is the time to invest in delivering exceptional customer experiences because it has never been more important for them to be happy and loyal. But how do you know if they are satisfied with the services they are currently getting? Chances are you haven’t revisited your customer focused processes since they were developed, so other than the occasional angry customer call you probably don’t have any idea how happy or angry you are making your customers.

There is a golden rule; if you aren’t measuring it you aren’t managing it. You need to manage how happy your customers are with your company. How easy is your returns policy? Does your call centre have the correct information at their fingertips when customers phone in? Are your employees at your stores and customer outlets helping customers or are they too busy filling in the paperwork you demand from them?

If you have a call centre ask the call centre personnel what customers complain about the most and look into it. For example a medical aid found 25% of their calls were customers phoning in with queries around their monthly statements. It simplified their statements significantly reducing inbound calls and reducing customer frustration.

Measure your touch points (where customers “touch” your company, your systems, your processes, your personnel) and create customer experience maps so you know what customers like most about your company and what they dislike.

Measuring touch points is vital as this interaction creates a personal reaction; be it positive or negative. The more positive reactions customers have with your company the more likely they are to come back for more and tell their colleagues and peers about you. The more negative reactions they have with you the less likely they will deal with you in the future and more likely they will complain about your service levels to their colleagues (giving you negative word of mouth advertising).

But how do you measure touch points? By asking customers whenever they touch your company. Our secure web based tool Customer Experience Auditing is ideally suited for this. Every time a customer interacts with your company we send out an email to them asking what they thought of that experience. From their responses you can identify which experiences are creating value and which are not. Also you can identify which customers are happy with you and more importantly which are angry with you so you can immediately contact them and fix their problems.

Douglas MacGregor

Customer Relationship Auditing

“Building superior business relationships through client intelligence”

+27 (11) 805-3588 (direct)

+27 (82) 414-9394 (cell)