Earning customer loyalty can be the key to keeping your morale and your business up while the economy is down. Tom DeCotiis, author of the new book Make it Glow (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2008) has five essential tips to propel your company through the recession and prepare for even more success:
Focus Your Employees on Creating Positive Customer Transactions. Insist your employees provide a great experience every time, and teach them how to do it. Even if you have a small business with only two employees, make sure those two people know proper customer service procedures, and ensure they clearly understand the importance of the customer to the company’s, and their own, survival. In difficult times, companies do not get a second chance to make a good impression with customers.
Ensure Your Customer Feels Valued. Customers need to be valued, not just for their money, but for who they are. Make sure your company is addressing your customers’ need for a strong sense of belonging and significance. For example, make sure your staff is positive and proactive with complaints rather than negative and reactive.
Set Your Customers’ Expectations. It is not a matter of exceeding customer expectations, but guaranteeing your customers are never disappointed. Use your company’s unique selling point (USP) to shape your customer’s expectations. For example, Saks Fifth Avenue sells consumers on its exclusive and elegant shopping experience, and when customers go into its retail outlets they are not disappointed.
Make Sure Your Employees Understand Your Company’s Values. People are drawn to integrity. If your staff understands what your company stands for and is trying to accomplish, then they will accomplish it. This is important to remember as owners train managers who train employees and so on. The communication chain is important for maintaining alignment with the original values of the company. Spot-check different areas of your business with people posing as customers who will report to you their experiences.
Evaluate How Cutting Costs Will Affect Your Customer. There is a big difference between cutting and managing costs. What you never want to do is cut quality. A company lives or dies by its reputation, and quality is at least one-third of its reputation.
“Focus on keeping your company worthy of your customers’ loyalty,” DeCotiis says. “If you do, then you will propel your business through this downturn and create a solid foundation from which to grow in the future.”
Tom DeCotiis worked on the team that put together strategies for the startups for Boston Chicken (now Boston Market), Outback Steakhouse, Blockbuster Video and the new strategy for the United Way. DeCotii, who has a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology, is a co-founder of CorVirtus, a company formed in 1985 to provide high-level, specialized consulting distinguished by values-based and vision-directed strategies to international companies.