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The global pandemic has caused major disruptions in the way businesses operate and retain customers. Challenges such as government-mandated lockdowns, supply chain issues and employee shortages are just a few of the frustrations that customers have faced over the last two years. These resulted in canceled orders, reduced purchases and moving to a competitor who could better meet their needs. The pandemic also shifted consumer buying behavior as many workers faced layoffs, remote working arrangements and changes in their commutes.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 56 percent of all businesses saw a decrease in the demand for their products and services. For some businesses like air transportation, hotels and food service, the attrition was even more severe.
Now that some light has appeared at the end of the tunnel, business owners need to focus their efforts on rebuilding their customer base. To do this, entrepreneurs and small businesses owners need to have a well-thought-out strategy. Businesses that assume customers will simply return are in for a rude awakening. Companies will need to be more proactive in their approach to improve their success at winning back the customers they lost.
1. Get customer feedback
To create a successful strategy, you need to better understand what your customers are thinking and feeling about your business. Now is the perfect time to conduct customer research and surveys. The insights from existing customers can be helpful in understanding why they stayed with your business through the pandemic. But, don’t forget to also try and get feedback from customers who left. By understanding what factors drove them away, you can better understand what it will take to win them back.
2. Reevaluate your target market
Your ideal customer today may look very different from your pre-pandemic target market. Changes in buying patterns may have eliminated or greatly reduced demand from your bread-and-butter customers. These changes forced businesses to adjust services to accommodate the needs of untapped markets or previously secondary markets. For example, a brick-and-mortar business that only did a small percentage of online sales may now have a majority of their sales coming from their online store.
3. Improve communication
Some businesses lost customers due to poor communication strategies. Customers felt they weren’t being informed of shipping delays or closures due to lockdowns. Your business’s communication plan may need to be revamped to enhance communication flows with your customers. Also, since many businesses went under during the pandemic, it’s critical to make sure your customers know you are still alive and well.
4. Transform your customer service
Most companies are in the same boat when it comes to rising material costs and supply chain issues. Businesses should work on improving things within their control such as customer service. This can help differentiate them from their competitors. You want to make sure that the process to reconnect customers to your business is easy and requires little effort. You can also work on creating new ways to personalize your products or enhance customer experience. For example, if you are a SaaS business, free workshops can help customers feel more comfortable with what your platform has to offer.
5. Think about pricing and offer incentives
Inflation is driving up the price of most goods and services. Consumers are acutely aware of how this is impacting their finances. While taking steps to keep costs down is the most obvious option, it may not be possible to control. If you do need to raise your prices, think about ways to provide more value (such as exclusive features) to your customers who are paying more. This will help them justify the additional expense. You can also offer discounts for large or extended purchase agreements.
6. Continue to focus on health and safety
Some consumers, especially those who have medical conditions that put them at risk, may still be apprehensive about fully returning to normal. When you reopen your business or ramp up operations, stress to your customers that you will continue to provide a safe and healthy environment for them. This is especially critical for businesses in the retail and foodservice industries. The goal is to make your business safe but focus on ways to not feel cumbersome.
7. Plan reopening events
You can create a great deal of buzz and excitement for returning customers by hosting some form of reopening event. Depending on the type of business you operate, this might be an elaborate in-person event for your top customers. Other businesses may plan online or virtual events or activities such as sales, special promotions or exclusive informational campaigns.
If you can get this right, then you as an entrepreneur can regain your own work/life balance and increase your profitability while also having more personal freedom.