What’s the best Customer Service during a Recession?
Have you read the articles in the papers about the status of our economy? I am not sure that we are really in a recession or even in a depression, as some pessimists seem to indicate. May that be decided by the historians in a few years when all the data is available and analyzed.
Have you heard about the relatively low confidence readings by the public? You yourself might have asked yourself how to continue to pay for $4/gallon gas at the pump, ever increasing prices for food, and many other daily necessities.
Officially we have an inflation rate of about 1.5 – 2 % but when I look at most of what we consume, it has increased easily by 20% or 30%, and in some cases even 40%, not to speak of the 100% increase when filling up the tank of my car.
Do you feel the same pain? If so, you might ask yourself what you can do. You might also ask yourself what your organization can do, as your place of work is probably the one resource you can’t afford to loose in these challenging times.
With unemployment racing towards 6% nationwide, there is an increasing fear among the workforce about job security. The overall mood of the population is suppressed by the jump in prices, the war that doesn’t seem to end, the negative economic news, the unending stream of reports about foreclosures. It almost looks like everything is on a negative downslide right now.
Individually we can’t change the fundamentals of the economy and the associated political decisions. What we can do is get back to the very basics of doing business. One of these very basic things is customer service.
I strongly believe that the trend we currently see in many organization is going to be regretted when the dust of all the turmoil settles. When companies want to reduce cost, they typically look at those parts of the organization that don’t deliver obvious returns on investment. These include, almost on equal levels, expenses for training, and expenses and salaries for customer service.
One of the additional fallacies is the believe that a reduced number of customers coming into stores or visiting your website means you don’t need as many people providing services. The opposite is actually true.
When you want to maintain reasonable sales figures and thereby secure the jobs in your organization, you need to be better in customer service than most everybody else.
Many people who would have been customers a year ago are prospects right now. That means they might be interested in what you have to offer in products and services, but they have a generally negative state of mind. You know the reasons from reading all the bad things above.
To convert a prospect with a negative frame of mind into a buying customer, you will have to find out what they need, and show them all the benefits of what you have to offer. In these times, customer service becomes a needs satisfaction task, not a pure sale.
If you can satisfy the needs of a prospect by clearly showing how he or she will benefit from spending the little money they currently have with you, you have a much better chance to actually make a sale.
The second and almost more important task for your customer service providers is the transformation of a customer into a client. When the economy is restarting and the general mood will turn more optimistic, those organizations able to convert lots of prospects into customers and ultimately into clients, will be in a prime position to accelerate even more.
Never forget that a customer buys once (maybe because you just happened to have what they were desperately looking for). A client buys over and over again and builds a relationship with you that is often stronger than the lure of a lower price your competitor might offer.
To have a lot of clients, you want to determine what the needs of your prospects are, what the benefits of your solutions are, and then bring the two together in a smooth, caring, supportive way. If you can trigger the urge of a prospect to fill a need by buying what you offer, you will have a seamless sale.
If you keep serving your customer well after the sale, he or she will turn into a long term client and no recession in the world can change that.
Make sure that everybody in your organization understands that customer service is even more important in these challenging times than it is during a boom. You might even want to change the term from customer service to client service.
If that becomes the frame of mind of everyone working with and for you, your chances of flying through this demanding economy are way better than any of your competitors.
Make sure you don’t save at the wrong end of your business and invest in the skills of those among you who deliver the all important client services. That will secure the longevity and prosperity of your organization automatically.
Axel Meierhoefer, AMC LLC