How to Support and Grow Lasting Relationships During Times of Uncertainty
When major events affect the economy or bring instability to daily life, it threatens the livelihood of businesses that must find ways to stay standing even as their revenue streams diminish. Those businesses quickly go into survival mode, looking for ways to stem their losses and survive the impact of lost revenue and idle hands.
But businesses aren’t the only ones struggling in the face of unprecedented uncertainty. Your customers are likely also dealing with new challenges and concerns they haven’t faced before. For businesses worried about their own future, a possible answer to their fears can be found in placing a greater focus on their customers’ needs.
Customer relationships and brand trust play an enormous role in the long-term success of a business. Even when sales and other revenue streams are blunted, your business can build a brighter future by taking steps to deliver greater value and service to your customers now—even if that means going outside of your normal modes of operation. Here’s a look at how to grow and support customer relationships that will buoy your business and carry you into the future.
TELL CUSTOMERS HOW YOU’RE PUTTING THEM FIRST
Communication is key. When dramatic changes are made to your business operations, it’s smart to offer transparency around these changes and what they mean for your customers. Are you reducing your brick-and-mortar store hours to respond to a public safety issue? Are you taking greater precautions in where and how you render your services?
Your business might also be offering additional services that address evolving customer needs, even if it doesn’t necessarily boost your bottom-line. A restaurant could start offering delivery services, or offer to-go specials. A local fitness studio could offer to stream classes so customers can take part in them from home. A financial institution could offer free financial or credit counseling services to help customers dealing with new economic concerns. A local grocery store could coordinate with other local businesses to provide a patchwork of services and connections that consumers may have a sudden and urgent need for.
Use your established advertising channels to spread the word about these changes. Email newsletters, social media and TV advertising are easy ways to update customers on the changes you’re making, and why. As those customers try to orient themselves in a fast-changing world, they can learn to recognize your brand as a stable presence they can trust.
ADAPT YOUR POLICIES TO ACCOUNT FOR UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES
In some cases, businesses may need to relax certain policies or rules that can cause unforeseen discomfort or complications for customers. Cancellation policies and cancellation fees may not be fair or smart to enforce if consumers are facing a public health issue. Late fees for missed bill payments, meanwhile, may only add additional economic strain to customers already dealing with unprecedented financial worries.
While your business isn’t exempt from similar financial strife, it’s important to consider the impact of those policies on your customers, and what that might do for your customer relationships. Relaxing or modifying some of these policies might end up generating much more value just by strengthening those relationships and building trust with your customer base.
USE YOUR BUSINESS TO OFFER HELP THROUGH TROUBLED TIMES
Businesses may suffer from the financial fallout of public health emergencies, economic recessions, and other major events, but in many cases there are opportunities to modify their current offerings in ways that benefit their customers—and deliver value and trusted service at a time when many consumers are struggling with daily hardships.
Automotive shops across the country, for example, have been offering flexible vehicle drop-off options to minimize contact between customers and workers. Some of those businesses are even offering to come pick up vehicles so that individuals who can’t or prefer not to leave home can get their required maintenance done, while minimizing contact with others.
In other cases, your business can address customer concerns by being transparent about the changes you’re making to improve the safety and/or quality assurance of your work. By staying flexible enough to accommodate your customers’ needs, you can strengthen your reputation as a local business they can trust—and that trust will carry on after these times of uncertainty have gone away.
Even when national and global events bring seismic change to your day-to-day business, economic uncertainty doesn’t mean you have to sit back and absorb the brunt of this fallout. Your customers still have needs, and your business can be a source of solutions. When in doubt, put your customers’ needs first.
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