Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Pre-recession, we had it quite good. Easy-to-get credit, customers “falling” through the door, flexibility on delivery times. And all this while just watching the money flow in. Not anymore. New customers are much harder to find, banks are really toughening up and now everyone wants their orders, right here & right now.

Running a business today is all about keeping existing customers and not just about winning new ones. And this means focussing on trying to get it right every time. Delivering incredible customer service is of course essential, but now, over the next two years and, quite frankly for ever, it’s all about giving better customer service EVERY SINGLE DAY WITHOUT FAIL!

Phrases like

• The Customer is King.
• If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.
• Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
• The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.
• Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
• Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.
• Well done is better than well said.
• In business you get what you want by giving other people what they want.
• You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.
• Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
• Customer service is not a department, it's an attitude!

are, to many, tired, old fashioned and very clichéd, but to others and lets hope its the majority, these are the best rules you can live your business life to over the next two years….at least.

But don’t just live by these rules. Improve on them and make a difference, everyday.

As well as focussing on customer service, the businesses that survived the recession of the 90’s did so because

They got the basics right - get a business plan & a realistic set of financial forecasts in place now and prepare yourself for the future

They cut costs – get rid of unnecessary costs by streamlining processes & procedures & stripping out waste

They carefully managed cash flow - ensure you don’t run out of cash by accurately recording incoming and outgoing costs.

They spent on wisely on marketing - Take advantage of the recession by negotiating better deals in areas such as advertising where cost of space has dropped or allocate spend to setting up or improving a website……. customers need to hear about you!

They stayed determined – there’s not only a need to work harder, but also smarter. Remember, If small business was easy then everyone would be doing it !

They held onto existing customers - Rather than putting all efforts behind winning new business, which is more cost and time heavy, try to identify new business opportunities amongst existing customers to lead to successful organic growth and new revenue.

They diversified their product and customer base - Look at ways to adapt or broaden the appeal of your business through new opportunities, re-looking at your way of working and adapting it for a different market.

They delivered excellent customer service - With existing customers recognised as the lifeblood for small businesses during a period of downturn, delivering excellent customer service, being flexible and reliable to meet their requirements help keep current customers loyal as they tighten belts.

And they invested in the right technology – Gone are the days of a salesman tramping the streets looking for leads and then going back to his office to answer his emails the next day. The technology is here, now and people expect quicker and more efficient responses to their enquiry…..almost immediately

But remember, the last thing you want is “Death-by-Bad-Service”…..what you really need is “New Life, Everyday”….and, as the business owner, it’s down to you to make it happen!

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