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Business recovery: Connect with your customers

During periods of disruption, putting customer needs’ first may improve the long-term health of your company.

When Coronavirus hit at the start of this year, Neil Hughes, managing partner at Baker Tilly in Ireland looked to a framework he developed ten years earlier following Ireland’s 2008/9 financial crash to help position businesses on the road to recover: The Seven Cs of Business Recovery.

In the final part of the Seven Cs series, we look at putting the customer first.

Given the multifaceted nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the impact on organisations is complex. Due to lockdown and imposed restrictions, certain sectors have temporarily ceased trading. However, some businesses continue to service customers, with many embracing technology by moving online or improving their online offering.

“Businesses will be finding their typical client and market levers are no longer available to them. The challenge becomes figuring out how and where to pivot, where the emerging trends are and what the new client drivers are, and being prepared to act accordingly.”

Ryan Piper, Director of Strategy, Baker Tilly International

“It is likely you will increasingly rely on your current customer base to see you through” explains Hughes. “Leverage certain strategies to manage their expectations and satisfaction.”

Strong client relationships

It’s important your customers trust you and know they can rely on you in the midst of a crisis. Listen to what they have to say and cater to their needs.

“Providing excellent customer support is key to building strong relationships and keeping customers coming back”, says Hughes.

“Firstly, if you have made reductions in staff and payroll in response to COVID-19, it’s important to consider how these cuts might affect your customer service. For example, will letting reception staff go mean calls go out and messages go unanswered? Will a reduction in staff numbers in the warehouse mean that orders take longer to process and are delivered late?

“It is likely you will have introduced new measures to deal with the crisis. Has a reduction in staff had an impact on how easy it is for clients and customers to contact your business, place orders and have goods or services delivered efficiently and to a good standard?

“Consider carefully about how those measures are perceived and how they impact your customer.”

Customer loyalty is king

It is also vital that business owners reinforce customer loyalty in order to maximise the ‘lifetime value’ of the customer, explains Hughes.

“When considering the lifetime value of your customer, do not think of your customers only or simply in terms of their first purchase. Calculate the value of the potential repeat sales they represent. To do this, note the amount of money the customer spends more transaction, and the amount of times he or she uses your products or services throughout the year. Then estimate the amount of years you expect that customer to stick with your business and make the calculation.

“Repeat customers should never be taken for granted because if they cease using your services you will not enjoy their full ‘lifetime’ value to the business.”

Reward returning customers

Consider instigating customer loyalty schemes to persuade your existing customers to carry on using your product or service, advises Hughes. Loyalty schemes may also keep you one step ahead of competitors when your best customers are looking to cut costs or save money during the crisis.

Give them a reason to keep coming back. The more they shop, the more they’re rewarded.

The article “Business Recovery: Connect With Your Customers” was first published on on 16 November 2020 and has been reproduced with the approval of the author.

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Neil Hughes

Baker Tilly Ireland

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