When the economy is unsteady, customer satisfaction is more significant than at any other point. Studies show that customers have become increasingly more intolerant with slipshod customer service and inadequate inventory levels and are more willing to shop around to find a provider who will treat them well. Customers are attempting to keep their cost down and will avoid a wholesaler with poor customer service and inventory levels. Why? It is because their cost increases significantly if they have to make several stops to complete a job. These customers are requiring, demanding, and deserving one-stop shopping.
WHAT TO DOWhile most of the competition is cutting back in many, if not all, departments, you should leave your customer satisfaction apparatus untouched, or maybe even ramp up your investment. Without focusing on customer satisfaction - not to be confused with customer service - I suggest you ramp it up with support services and strong levels of inventory, including innovative new products. Focusing on improving customer satisfaction, rather than diminishing it, is particularly important when business is scarce.
It is also important to focus on the needs of your customers by providing them what they need when they need it. For many customer relationships during this recession, customer service has meant being flexible on invoices and billing arrangements. Popular alternatives are to accept credit cards, offer cash discounts for early payment, and reduce shipment charges. You have a vested interest to help customers get through these difficult times. When you both make it through together, it can solidify a great business relationship down the road.
ORIGINALITY DEMANDAlthough demand for most products has diminished during the economic downturn, demand for originality has never been stronger. In the struggle for market share, when demand is down, price is unfortunately the weapon of choice. To counteract this you must be prepared to invest in inventory, new products, and services. Don’t fall into the trap of selling more of the same old stuff. Capital investment for inventory, including new products and services, allows you to sell additional value, shoring up your bottom line.
While competition demonstrates a certain lack of urgency in resolving important inventory and support issues, you should position yourself to be the top performer by focusing on continuous improvement in the areas of pricing, shipping, inventory availability, and technical support. A differentiated wholesaler provides customers with unparalleled solutions and opportunities that will enable both them and their customer to dominate the market, not by lowering prices, but by offering products with a higher return on investment. Having the products and services in place will position you for the economic upswing with increased profitability and market share.