During Tough Economic Times, Over Communicate With Your Customers

communicate with customersJack Welsh, the former CEO of General Electric, recently delivered some good advice about business strategy during this economic tsunami.

You can check out the 4 minute video if you wish, but I’ll paraphrase Welch’s 3 points as follows:

  1. Over communicate to every employee.  In uncertain times, reassure employees of management’s plan to win.
  2. Take care of your best people.  Don’t let them get down.  Plans made at the beginning of the year have been disrupted and should be revised.
  3. Shore-up your balance sheet.  This is the time to buy or bury your competition.  With a healthy balance sheet, you can go on the offensive.

Few people will argue with the leadership Jack Welsh demonstrated while at the helm of GE.  Welch is an aggressive, hard-charger and in hard times, recommends that you go on the offensive:“Do not sit under your desk and suck your thumb.”

For the Fortune 500, Jack Welch is dead-on, but for the Fortune 100,000, I’ll add one more critical element to his wisdom (to reinforce the most important asset of any business):

4.  Over communicate with your existing customers.     

If employees get “jumpy” during an economic downturn, how do you think your customers are feeling?  If you think they’re questioning every purchase decision (past, present and future), you are right on the money.

How to Communicate With Your Customers

So what should you do to keep your existing customers from jumping ship and keep loyalty a win/win proposition?  HINT:  Doing nothing is not an option.

BE PROACTIVE.  Don’t wait for your best customers to defect.  If you assume anything, assume the worst. It’s well documented that 64% of customers leave existing suppliers because of a feeling of indifference.  Be honest with yourself.  Over the last few years of focusing on new business, have you taken your existing customers for granted?  Your first response will be “absolutely not,” but look at the business relationship from their perspective.  Think about your top 10 customers and climb inside their shoes.  How does it feel now?

Don’t complicate the issue any more than it already is.  Communicate:

  1. In writing–Letters are far more revered than emails. Personally addressed and signed letters trump  the speed and convenience of email every time.
  2. By phone–This is a support medium.  It’s best not to use the phone as your primary tool, but as an engaging follow-up mechanism.
  3. Person to person–The absolute most appreciated form of communication. What you say is important, but the fact that you invested personal one-on-one time to say it makes this the most important and interactive communication of all.  Often, this is not practical for all customers, but it’s always the most valued.

Use all three to communicate your resolve to continue your business with them. And, you’ll find this often triggers additional dialog that can lead to more business.

If you’re waiting for the big reveal on the psychological code for getting into the heads and hearts of your customer, here it is:

  • Communicate with sincere appreciation,
  • Communicate with empathy–nurture versus sell,
  • Communicate often.

Jack Welch has an in-your-face way with words, but as you read between the lines, he’s saying be prudent, proactive and lead by innovating your way through this downturn.  You and I can’t control the economy, but without increasing operating costs, we can control the volume and value of communications that keeps employees inspired, customers loyal,  prospects engaged and competition sucking their thumbs.

This article is courtesy of:

Don Rigby
President, Integrated MARCOM, Inc.
Member GrowthANSWERS

Converting prospects into customers and customers into clients-for-life is the battle cry of Integrated MARCOM.  For our clients, we execute this business fundamental by implementing a communication workflow system that personalizes and automates the delivery of one-to-one communications–in writing, by phone and face-to-face meetings.

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