Whether it was due to public health risks, limited capacity, or lack of finances, there’s virtually no business that wasn’t affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. steel industry saw their furnaces go dormant, leading to devastating price forecasts. In the coming future, there are a number of global challenges that likely will and have impacted Canadian and American industries.
When times are tough, customers spend less. Encouraging them to part with their cash can be a considerable challenge. Still, there are some truisms that are reliable, and many companies returned to them during the recent crisis. Below are some ways to keep your customers happy when times are hard.
Audit Customer Conversations
Slow business provides a great opportunity for some self-reflection. Start with the emails you’ve directly exchanged with customers to get a sense of how you’ve presented yourself to each one. Were there missteps? Did you come off too pushy or fail to respond to a question?
If you find anything wrong with your communication, draft a new policy and implement it.
The general struggle of keeping up with the day-to-day often involves refocusing on priorities. If a client has fallen out of contact, it might not be that they’re intentionally ignoring you but are simply busy. It doesn’t hurt to send some sort of follow-up message to re-establish contact.
Occasionally, though, customers are ignoring you. According to author Michael Leboeuf, 68 per cent of customers quit after dealing with an unfriendly manager, a prickly customer service agent, or a hostile employee.
If, for any reason, a client is unwilling to continue doing business with you, do not hassle them. At this time, it would be wise to focus on finding new customers.
When Incentives Aren’t an Option, Talk to Customers
The Great Recession of 2008 saw every auto manufacturer’s sales fall— save Hyundai, which increased its market share by 40 per cent. The company took the time to actually speak to customers and figure out why cars weren’t being sold.
Born out of this experience was their “Jobless Protection Plan”, assuring customers that, should they lose their job, they could return the car without making further payments.
What they discovered in those conversations was that it wasn’t finances that kept people from making a purchase, but fear. It’s critical for any company during an economic hardship to see things from the customer’s perspective.
Hyundai’s example also offers a different insight. It’s just as important to cater to a customer’s irrational emotions as it is the rational ones.
Be Honest and Keep Them Informed
Transparency is always valued by your customers. When the U.S. steel industry saw its prices skyrocket, some companies turned to blogging blunt appraisals of the current market so customers might understand the reasons.
When making things less expensive for them isn’t an option, honesty might your only choice, and customers appreciate the time you take to build trust. 81 per cent of customers cite it as a critical factor. They’ll also appreciate that you respect them enough to explain what a complex issue might be.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer