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Opinion VOC Strategy

Facing Cutbacks? Talk to Customers First

Companies facing financial pressures often are backed into a corner, forcing them into cutback on programs, services and staff. Many take a defensive posture, trying the hide the cuts from customers.

Customer centricity isn’t something that vanishes in the face of poor financial performance. If you’re company is underperforming, your rebuilding efforts are going to have to start with customers and the closer you stay to them the bigger the chances for recovery.

The Key: Focus on Win-Win Cutbacks

It sounds like an oxy-moron but there are some cutbacks that every company can make that can be positive for customers too.

Chances are if some of your services are not delivering ROI, they’re probably not working that well for customers either.

Talking to Customers Through the Cutbacks

A lot of what messes up corporate decision making is a lack of understanding of what customers value. Relying on anecdotal inputs from customer facing employees or even customers, can create a false impression of the importance of some parts of your service or support offerings.

Taking a more systematic or scientific approach to gathering customer inputs can help in two ways:

1. Identifying potential “non-critical” or even “poor” elements of your operations that can be cut with the support of customers

2. Gathering ideas for how to message those cutbacks to customers by offering more in other areas that they value more.
Think of it this way

A closed in approach makes companies think of cutting programs without any other adjustments. But by talking to customers, it can be turned into a business rationalization exercise. If a particular service platform isn’t delivering ROI and it’s costing to much, you can take a more aggressive approach to cutting it. Rather than cutting it by 50%, completely terminate it and at the same time give something back that customers put a higher value on.

The point here is to keep the customer front of mind. That can change the mindset and approach that you take to rationalizing your business economics and allow you generate goodwill in the face of cutbacks.

Brand is all about trust

It’s an important lesson and often trust can be built more in down times than up. Customers want to know that you keep them front of mind — that they can trust you to respect and focus on them — while still running a rational business model.

You can find the way to build brand while cutting back, by including customer input in your process and being open about the situation and finding ways to create positive changes in the face of cutbacks.

Sep 15, 2014  
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