Article featured in the August 2009 edition of the Australian Business Solutions magazine. (Updated 2014)
Author: Nicola Barnard
In 2009 the Australian Security and Investments Commission (ASIC), was investigating claims that the Kleenmaid Group was trading while insolvent during the past two years. They apparently owed over $152 Million to various creditors, suppliers and employees. Not counting the $27 Million owed to 4500 customers who had placed orders. Faith in companies gets shaken by events such as this. More than ever, your customer is going to want to be reassured that you will be there and profitable for the long term.
The solution involves intention and perception. If the intention of your business is to help your clients with their challenges, then the perception is one of giving and helping, rather than one of taking. People want to be around others that are successful and confident. If you believe in what you do, have a clear authentic message and conduct yourself with inner confidence and integrity, you will then be perceived as someone or a business that is attractive and trustworthy. People and opportunities will then be drawn to you. It is essentially the Givers Gain philosophy. So step one is to get clarity and conviction within yourself first.
Then there are a few things you can do in your external world to help support your fabulously confident and attractive persona, and maintain your brand attractiveness.
Historically, when times get tough, successful businesses literally smarten up. Maintain exceptional grooming standards. If you have a dress code and grooming policy, use it. If you have staff, enforce the policy. Neat and clean will give the impression you and your staff care and pay attention to the details. This helps support the impression of confident capability.
The same principle applies to clothing quality and appropriateness. High quality fabrics will look great and wear well so the investment will save you money in the long term. If you need to introduce a uniform to protect your brand’s image, do it. It’s about taking the guess work out to reduce the risk of brand sabotage. Don’t forget the physical environment too. Maintain a clean, tidy and organised office.
Excellent customer service and communication becomes more important in tough times. Stay connected and communicate that you understand the challenges your client is facing. For example, if you openly say that ‘with trusted brands going bankrupt it is often difficult for consumers to know who to trust their hard earned cash with’ … ‘we at XYZ company understand your concerns’ etc. There really is no actual promise except that you have acknowledged the elephant in the room and that will often in itself satisfy the customer. This also applies to your staff; they are your internal customers. If they feel safe and happy, the external customer will notice.
You may also find an opportunity to develop or restructure a product, service or support mechanism to help clients. Be prepared to do different things and see what the feedback is. There is no failure only feedback. For example, if you have a pay as you go strategy and your customers go elsewhere, take this as feedback and do something different. Maybe the payment plans need to change. See these times as a chance for you to shine brighter and be a more trusted resource than your competitor.
Most importantly, don’t stop doing anything that clients have become accustomed to. Remember it’s about trust and safety. Maintaining the familiar can be an intrinsic part of client retention. By all means introduce new things. Just don’t pull the rug out from under anyone’s expectations. More than anything in uncertain times, people want to feel safe. Nurture the relationships and you will not only have a repeat customer but also a raving fan. That is priceless and worth the effort.