How to secure customer loyalty in uncertain times
Despite facing political and economic uncertainty post-Brexit, now’s not the time for businesses to rest on their laurels. Many face a perfect opportunity to strengthen customer relationships and secure greater loyalty. In this article, we explain some practical ways to put in action sooner, rather than later.
Buying decision slow-down
When faced with uncertainty, buyer decision-making can slow down. People pause or hesitate to avoid making decisions they’ll later regret.
At worse, this can have a ripple effect and prompt economic downturns. So it’s important, despite not knowing what’s around the corner, to endeavour to keep going and carry on.
Now more than ever your customers are your lifeline and will continue to be so through the months ahead. In the last recession customers stuck to who they knew and were more reluctant to try out new suppliers. They didn’t want to risk a purchase decision going wrong. So when they wanted to spend, it had to deliver and deliver well – there was little margin for error.
Get close now
So if you haven’t already been getting closer to your customers, it’s certainly time to start and not put it off till you think the economic and political picture is clearer (that is likely to take a very long time).
If you can create a stronger dialogue with your customer base, you will be in a better position to offer relevant help and support as they navigate their way through the uncharted territory ahead.
And the more they appreciate your support; the more loyal they’ll be to you. They may even recommend other customers to you as, during uncertain times, more people seek out recommendations as part of their decision-making process.
How to support customers and build loyalty
Here are some ways to support customers in the weeks and months ahead:
1. Talk with them – your customers probably won’t know the full impact of UK’s economic and political uncertainty for them yet, but they probably will have a sense of the immediate repercussions. Find out what these are. There may be immediate or short-term challenges or opportunities for them. Can you help at all?
2. Focus on certainty in the short-term and make the most of it – the world is still turning and people will still need certain products and services. Things, which may have been planned pre-Brexit, may not need to be cancelled but may require a slightly different way of bringing them about. Can you, your contacts or suppliers help?
3. Support their longer-term scenario and contingency planning – people will want to reduce risk as much as possible and having a course of action for various scenarios helps. If you’re in a position to help facilitate your customers’ scenario planning, then offer that help. If not see if, as one of their suppliers, you can help with some of the data, cost analysis or insight needed to do this.
4. Monitor the issues which will impact on them – these could be territory-based, sector, organisational or even personal issues. Be alert to how the latest development may impact on them so you can offer timely and relevant advice or support when it’s needed. The more you understand about them, the more relevant issues you’ll spot.
5. Be accessible – if it’s difficult to get hold of you and your team, customers may lose their faith in you. Whilst you may not have all the answers to their questions, being there and listening is important. Customer loyalty will come if you are accessible, responsive and demonstrate a genuine desire to help.
6. Do what you say you’ll do when you said you’d do it – if buying decisions do start to stall, you can be sure competition will intensify as your rivals try to retain their own customers and attract new ones. To avoid a mass migration, ensure you continue delivering a high-quality product or service and don’t let people down. They will be less keen to try a new supplier, unless they are disappointed with your business output and customer experience.
7. Think about alternative payment terms – If cash flow gets tight for customers, and in order to retain their business, consider offering longer payment terms (if viable), or splitting payments over a number of phases (say pre, during and post-delivery). If you are able to, also explore if customers can spread the cost of the payment over a number of instalments. Check out the criteria and registration regarding consumer credit provision.
A period of economic and political uncertainty can play to the best parts of human nature and encourage many to support each other. It’s important not to go into denial about what is happening, or to just pause everything until the road ahead is clear. Those businesses that strengthen their foundations, and in particular their relationships with their customers will have a head-start and better commercial position than those who don’t.
Not all help needs to point to your business offering. Your company may have resources, insight, technology, contacts and processes which your customers could benefit from. You may want to introduce different customers to each other, as there is some synergy between them and opportunities for pooling resources and collaborating. You too may want to double-up with a specific customer to run a joint promotion, campaign or to convert a specific business opportunity.
So ensure you understand what your customers are currently facing and be there for them. They’ll never forget it and it will help you to secure their loyalty for many years to come.