It was over a year ago that Wall Street’s fourth biggest investment bank Lehman Brothers was allowed to collapse. Share markets around the world plummeted on fears that a financial catastrophe would result in multiple bank failures and plunge us into a depression, or a recession.
It is universally agreed that the stimulus injections, nationalisations and bank deposit guarantees implemented by governments’ across the globe have prevented a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. However, this has come at a massive cost. Recent figures compiled by the BBC have put the global bailout bill as a result of the global financial crisis at $US10.8 trillion.
Today Australia is showing encouraging signs of economic recovery. With recent economic data suggesting that Australia narrowly escaped a technical recession and a decline in the constant bad economic news in the media, signs that consumers now believe the worst is over are beginning to emerge.
According to the latest Nielsen Global Confidence Survey, Australia’s Consumer Confidence Index is the fifth highest globally at 95 points, well ahead of other developed nations such as Great Britain (72) and the US (80). Forty four percent of Australians believed ‘now was a good or excellent time to buy the things they want’, indicating a renewed willingness to spend on discretionary items. As well, 59 percent of respondents described their personal finances as being ‘good or excellent’ for the year ahead.
The question remains, how do you position your business to ride this new wave of consumer confidence? Here are our top five tips on building stronger relationships with your customers:
1. Listen to your customers. If you want to find out what your customers like about your business, ask them. Invite them to coffee and then listen to what they have to say. Ask where you are strong, where you’re weak, and who they view as your competition. Or give them a report card to grade you on different areas of your business. Ask about your products or service offerings, your customer service capabilities, your project management skills or day-to-day support. Leave them with the final question: ‘If there was one thing you could change to achieve an A+, what would it be?’ This approach creates an open dialogue and gives you insights into how to better sell in the future.
2. Give a guarantee. If a customer knows you stand behind your product, they’ll learn to trust your company. Consider offering a guarantee as your ‘seal of approval’ for your work. This can be a money-back guarantee or a satisfaction guaranteed approach (where you offer a free product or service if someone isn’t completely satisfied). Have faith in your business and watch your sales improve.
3. Create customer-only exclusives. Being a customer should have some privileges. Make them feel valued by giving them something exclusive. This can be in the form of special support services, sneak peeks at new products before launch, or access to free research. This little something extra can equate to a big reward in loyalty.
4. Reward for good behaviour. Has someone been a loyal customer for a long period of time? Do some of your clients continually serve as references for you? Recognise their efforts with an unexpected reward. Give a surprise gift or discounts on future work.
5. Make doing business easy. Give a discount on services to those who pay early. Accept alternative forms of payment such as credit cards. Minimise paperwork and streamline processes. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’re making their lives easier.
By understanding your customers and developing stronger relationships now – your business will be better poised to capitalise on growing consumer confidence in the future.
– James Balagot is the head of business for Citibank (www.citibank.com.au)
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