Talking to your customers is a key strategy to weathering bad times. Your customer survey strategy is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of how loyal your customers are and to increase their loyalty to you — a very critical factor in times like these. It’s much harder, more expensive, and more time-consuming to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. Now, more than ever, you cannot afford a mass exodus — or even a slow leak — of your current customer base.
Why Do You Need to Stay in Touch?
- To stay relevant. You need to ensure that you are keeping updated on what is changing for your customers. You can’t expect that what you knew about your customers and their needs last year still applies.
- To avoid making big mistakes. Getting ongoing input from your customers about what is most important to them is a good way to make sure that you are not cutting back on things that are important to your customers such as reducing customer/tech support staff, canceling customer conferences, or reducing face-to-face visits.
- To open up the dialogue. Your customers are your eyes and ears for information that you can’t possibly get any other way. If you aren’t talking to them, they won’t be likely to share this information with you.
- To make sure you are doing the important things very well. Having the insight of what is most important to your customers allows you to focus your efforts on doing the few things that are most important to the customer and doing them very well. By focusing your organization’s efforts in this way, you may even cut costs.
- To define new products and services. Your customers have a wealth of information to share with you about what products should be added to your bag of tricks and what services would help them make the most of your existing products. Instead of trying to make those decisions internally in endless debates between marketing and engineering/development, how about talking to the people who have the money and the need — your customers?
- To remind them that you are here. This may sound quite obvious, however, in times like these, customers are getting used to seeing companies shutting down, reducing operations, etc. By reaching out to your customers, you come from a strong position — and imply that you will be there for them now and in the future.
- To ultimately gain their undying loyalty. You will differentiate yourself from other vendors/suppliers by taking the time to keep in touch with your customers. This will help prevent your customers from being tempted to switch to another company that is trying to survive by slashing prices.
How to Keep in Touch with Your Customers
Those are the reasons why you should reach out to your customers — but now you may be wondering how to get in touch with them. Some potential ideas to choose from:
- Personal calls from upper management, salespeople, support staff
- Customer surveys
- Questions/conversations during support calls
- Conducting an ongoing customer loyalty monitoring effort
- Monitoring and commenting on existing blogs and discussion boards where your customers are talking about your company and its products
- Monitoring Twitter for comments about your company and its products
- Establishing/maintaining a blog of your own
The best approach would include some combination of these activities. If you are overwhelmed about where to start, just pick up the phone and make a phone call to one very prized customer. You will be reinforced by that conversation. You will see how pleased they are to hear from you. And you will realize just how powerful communicating with your customers can be in helping both of you weather the economic storm.