Customers Are Your Biggest Asset in a Downturn

Turning towards your customers and redoubling your focus on customer engagement is one of the most effective ways to survive and even thrive in a downturn. Below, we’ll explain how you can continue to provide great customer service without breaking the bank along with real examples from companies who’ve done just that.

Economic hard times may be inevitable, but your business suffering as a result isn’t. It’s easy to reflexively respond to difficult economic conditions with the usual belt tightening, but in fact, adjusting your response can leave you in a stronger position.

 

Turning towards your customers and redoubling your focus on customer engagement is one of the most effective ways to survive and even thrive in a downturn. Below, we’ll explain how you can continue to provide great customer service without breaking the bank along with real examples from companies who’ve done just that.

Maintaining Engagement in Turbulent Times

When times get tough for businesses and they respond by reducing service quality, they’re sending a clear message to their customers: “we’re not focusing as much on you anymore, now’s a good time to leave.” What makes matters worse is that many customers actually want more for their money in these difficult times.

 

The result of those customers leaving reduces revenue even more, sometimes triggering yet more reductions in services. It’s a vicious cycle which ends up closing many businesses for good.

 

But what all of this cost management misses are the critical ways you can do more with less without sacrificing the value you provide to your customers. Whether you’re in good or bad economic times, improving customer experiences has an enormous impact on your key metrics. Connecting with customers is a low-cost high-impact way to do just that.

Your Customers Are a Resource

One overlooked resource when thinking about how to delight customers is the clients themselves and the support they can provide to each other. Here are four examples of how you can leverage your customers to serve your customers in practice.

1:1 Conversations

Matching your customers with the information they need is always a challenge. Companies use everything from FAQ pages to customer service team members to help field questions and empower customers.

However, a lot of the information and insights they may need isn’t with you, it’s with other customers. There’s simply no way you as a company can know about all the specific insights and experiences your customers have.Of course, plenty of organizations spend vast sums trying to collect this valuable data through expensive surveys, monitoring, and analysis.

But, particularly in a downturn, there’s a cheaper and more effective way to gather customer insights while also providing those customers with valuable insights themselves.

At Primary, we provide our Executive Network a number of benefits to learn and engage with one another. With our members located around the globe, we found one of the most effective ways to bring people together to exchange ideas, network, and connect has been through virtual 1:1 conversations. Facilitating these connections would have been nearly impossible without Orbiit! We’re thrilled to see our participation rate continue to grow month over month and consistently score above a 90 NPS!” says Caroline Conegliano, who runs Strategy & Market Development at Primary Venture Partners.

By connecting your customers for 1:1 conversations, you can unlock the potential of that information, delight your customers, and deepen their relationship with your product or service. All of this makes retention during tough economic times far easier. 

Michael Elson, President & CEO of Penn Tool Co & Light Tool Supply, shared an example of what these conversations can do. In particular, he points out how speaking to a fellow business leader going through the same challenges he was having gave him confidence, hardly something he could easily get elsewhere.

My match seemed to know about lots of the things we are doing online to drive sales.  She also gave me confidence to go hard into social ads since they do very well there.  Penn Tool currently uses Google shopping as the main source of ads. We will be using social ads in the next few months more than we ever have.

Small Insights Group Discussions

Another way to unlock the same benefits as 1:1 conversations in a different format is by hosting small group discussions to help customers unlock insights. Bringing customers with common interests together in this way also allows you to gather invaluable product feedback without the need to go through a lengthy and expensive customer survey process.


As with 1:1 meetings, however, the key is finding the right people, the right topics of discussion, and making scheduling easy. Fortunately, there are powerful tools to automate every step of that matching process. With AI helping to find the ideal topics, matches, and time slots, holding 1:1 meetings or group discussions can be fast, simple, and cost-effective.

Physical Get Togethers

On the other hand, if you happen to be geographically close to your clients, you can host physical get togethers with the same aims. Getting in the same space with customers, listening to their challenges, and sharing knowledge is a great way to build stronger bonds and to stand out from the competition.

 

These could be simple networking events, or meetups with specific themes like discussing key learnings from past experiences (the delightfully named “fail fast nights”). Having participants share difficult experiences and the lessons they derived from them can be very impactful, memorable, and useful.

 

The problem here is that renting a space and paying for food or refreshments makes these kinds of meetings less cost effective in any economic conditions. So if you have the resources, these can be great, but when times are tough it makes sense to focus more on virtual meetups.

Virtual Events

These are certainly more widely used than the other ideas on this list, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as effective. Virtual events are one of the most cost-effective ways to build community and connect with your customers.

 

Virtual events don’t all have to be webinars. For example, if you have some budget around the holidays you could host beverage tastings (alcoholic or non) through companies like Vin Social. Those kinds of experiences and events can really make your brand stand out as innovative, fun, and genuinely interested in serving its customers.

 

You can also host events with some of the same themes mentioned above or even highlight customers who have done something unique with your product or service. These kinds of stories inspire in a way few run-of-the-mill blog posts or emails can. That said, once such an event is over, you can always repurpose it into one of those two to get even more value out of it.

When Times Get Hard, Don’t Neglect Customers

When your customers feel an economic squeeze, they’re already looking for ways to cut expenses. Neglecting them in that crucial moment sends a clear message that you should be on the chopping block. In any economic downturn, customers are your biggest asset and continuing to provide them with value helps ensure that when economic times improve, you’ll be ready.

 

Just remember that manually finding the right topics, the right participants, setting up meetings, and generally keeping track of the entire process is expensive and time-consuming. That’s why if you want to unlock the power of virtual 1:1s, small group meetings, and more without investing heavily in staff to manage and organize meetups, you will need the right 1:1 meeting tool.

 

Armed with that tool, when your competitors are trying to regain the customers they lost, you’ll be starting from a solid foundation. When they’re trying to rebuild their reputation after slashing costs and quality, you’ll be equipped with loyal customers, great insights, and ready to thrive.

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