Dan Darcy, Chief Customer Officer at Qualified, explains how business leaders can double down on amazing customer experiences to not only cut costs but grow despite a tough economy.
We all know it’s more expensive to bring on a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. This is doubly true during a recession—and in case you haven’t been on social media, watched the news, or purchased eggs lately, it seems we’re barreling toward one right now.
Customers in a recession are more hesitant than ever to take the plunge with a new product or provider, so it takes more effort and resources to convert them than during a healthy economic environment. The customers that are still in the market are under more scrutiny by their financial teams, and deal cycles are longer and more intricate than even just a quarter ago. Some customers drop out of the market entirely.
It’s clear, customer acquisition is not where our focus should be in 2023. What are businesses to do, then, to keep revenue flowing in and our numbers across the board from taking a nose-dive into the red?
The answer is simple. Go big on customer retention.
Now is when thoughtful customer service shines. Retaining existing customers and keeping churn to a minimum is vital to surviving rocky terrain. An environment where everyone is having a difficult time is one where excellent customer service teams can set you apart and keep your product off clients’ lists of cost-cutting measures.
The key is making sure that customers understand how crucial your solution is to their success. Now is not the time to take things for granted. It’s the time to invest in your customers’ long-term success, and show up in a way that keeps you at the top of that “We can’t live without it” list.
Be proactive. Check-in and demonstrate that you understand times are tough and you’re a major part of keeping them from getting tougher. Pull the numbers that show the value proposition of your product—and if you don’t have the ability to point to the hard data on how you help their bottom line, there’s no better time than now to get those data collection and analysis tools in place. Build ROI metrics into your communications and expectations early on, don’t wait until their CFO is asking.
Demonstrating empathy and understanding of your customers’ situations is huge. Communication is essential to any strong relationship, and that’s exactly what customer service is there to cultivate: relationships. Remember that your customers don’t necessarily want to end their contract—but if the numbers suggest to them that it’s the right thing to do, they might have to. Your goal is to demonstrate to them the value you bring to the relationship with genuine connection and empathy, backed by metrics that prove your worth when it comes time to make hard decisions.
Having a strong working relationship and providing excellent customer service will be worth more than a few points when they’re comparing which products to drop and which to keep on. It’s a good idea to proactively reach out not only to demonstrate the value you’re already providing but to see what else you can do to make their path through the recession easier. This is the perfect time to learn from your customers and make meaningful changes that benefit you both.
For example—offer them upgrades and extra features to their products for a period of time. For free. Seriously. Especially if it’s just a matter of flipping on a switch that gives them more access to additional tools and won’t cost you more in support or resources. This signals that you’re invested in their success in this hard time and see them as more of a partner than just a number in accounts receivable. Actions like this strengthens the relationship as well as increases the value of what they’re getting from you, making the option to jump ship come with even more downside.
I mention doing these things proactively as opposed to reactively with good reason. Over the years I’ve spoken with many companies about customers they’ve lost, and very often the first time they discovered that customer was unhappy is when they reached out to cancel their contract. Keep tabs on customers’ satisfaction and exceed their expectations whenever possible. Stay in constant communication and empower your customer success teams to do whatever it takes to help your customers thrive in these tough times. It’s very hard to pull a customer back when they’ve left; it’s a much more manageable task to keep them from taking that drastic step in the first place.
It can feel daunting to do more for your customers when we’re all facing the same economic anxiety. You’re likely trying to scale back and cut costs yourselves, but there’s a reason that successful companies double down on customer service during economic downtowns. Investing in your customers keeps them around, which keeps your lights on, and when the market takes a stronger turn, you don’t have to rebuild your most important asset: your customer base.
By leading with empathy and proactively communicating with your customers about what you can provide to ease their pains, backed with detailed ROI data, your company can actually grow through a recession and come out the other side stronger than ever.
About the Author
Dan Darcy is Chief Customer Officer at Qualified, a conversation sales and marketing platform purpose-built for Salesforce.