We hear a lot of talk about how the recession has caused companies to improve their customer service. In fact, this assertion is almost cliche. And we know why. In a recession, there are fewer dollars chasing the good and services available. This creates much more competition for customers. So businesses need to attract them by making changes. This usually means lowering prices and or offering more value.
We like to say the “smart businesses” sharpen their customer service edge during a recession. And maybe this is so. But maybe not.
The smart businesses have been offering good customer service long before this recession. They will continue to do so. And they’ll come out of this downturn stronger than ever.
The others fall into three groups. One is those who never really improve customer service. They’ll drop prices. They’ll start aggressive rewards programs. And many will go out of business. But they’ll never improve service because they don’t get it.
The second group will improve their customer service during the recession. Some will still fail. But once business picks up, those still in business, will go back to their normal mode. They’ll focus more on new customers and on profits. Customer service will resume its place as the ugly step sister to sales and marketing. Customer service will (again) be no more than a job title or department for them.
Avoid these first two groups. They’re in business to make money, not to help people. Watch and you’ll see it in their actions.They’ll change with the wind and do whatever they think is necessary to get your business. But they are not there to serve you.
The third group is where the magic happens. These are companies run by people who embrace and encourage change. This tiny group will actually make permanent changes in how they do things. They will learn to focus on their customers. They’ll start to build a culture that values service over greed. They’ll remold their businesses to serve their customers in a way that is sustainable for them.
The recession will separate the good, the bad and the ugly. Many companies will fail because they fail to help their customers. Simply saying you deliver better customer service does not make it so. Customers are smarter now than ever. They know the difference between a company that exists to help them and one that exists to pick their pocket.
Use this recession as an opportunity to build a better business. Build a culture in your company that values service and you’ll build a company that can last forever.