#10things on how to talk to your cash-strapped customers

Organisations in grudge purchase industries need to be aware of the inflationary pressures faced by their customers, says Ross Sibbald, Tilte commercial director, and engage to foster long-term loyalty and advocacy.

South Africa’s monthly inflation rate has consistently been above the upper limit of The Reserve Bank’s three to six percent target range since April this year, peaking at 7.8% in July. Those rising costs have a massive impact on consumers, especially those in the fragile, emerging middle class. Forced to tighten their belts, many consumers are taking a second look at their monthly budgets, wondering where to cut back.

Organisations, particularly those in fields that might be considered grudge purchases (such as insurance), need to be aware of the inflationary pressures faced by their customers. More than that, however, they need to ensure that they’re engaging with those customers in ways that are not only cognizant of inflationary pressures, but also foster long-term loyalty and advocacy, advises Ross Sibbald, Tilte commercial director. Knowing how important customer engagement is in providing those experiences, what kind of strategy should organisations adopt at a time of great economic pressure?

1. Engagement is critical to brand survival. Before getting into what such an approach might look like, it’s worth remembering that many organisations may be feeling these inflationary pressures themselves. And with a global recession now seemingly inevitable, they may be tempted to cut costs themselves. While it would be all too easy to cut back on customer engagement in a bid to save money, doing so would be a mistake. Now is not the time to wait until your customers find you before engaging with them.

2. Customer engagement builds great customer experiences. It’s when times are toughest that customer engagement really proves its worth. And while customer experience is a competitive differentiator in economically prosperous times, it can be a matter of survival when times are tough.

3. With rising inflation comes rising demand for great customer experiences. Given what we already know about people being willing to spend more with organisations that provide those experiences, it’s clear that it should be an even greater priority now. Taking any other approach would increase the risk of losing customers who either forgo a purchase entirely or opt for a competitor’s offering.

4. Quality, anticipation, and holistic engagement. Customer engagement boils down to the relationship an organisation has with its customers. The best relationships are defined by trust and understanding. Building up that trust and understanding requires quality engagements that anticipate the customer’s needs and which are built up holistically.

5. Organisations need to ensure that they really know and understand their customers. Organisations also need to ensure that they regularly show customers that they’re making an effort to know them. That knowledge, in turn, allows organisations to better understand and anticipate their customer’s needs. This is important because today’s customers expect companies to understand what they want before they want it.

6. Quality engagements are key. Over time, and executed properly, those holistic and anticipatory add up to the kind of quality engagements that help set organisations apart when it comes to customer experience. And in a world where some 90% of organisations claim to compete on customer experience, that’s critical.

7. Choose the right engagement partner. If your organisation is also on a lower budget, maximising engagement in this way might seem out of reach. But it’s actually entirely achievable. Even so, organisations are frequently better off finding a partner that can help guide them through the engagement process than they would be trying to do it themselves.

8. Brands need right technologies, tools, and strategies. Such a partner should have a strong track record of helping organisations pull together the right technologies, tools, and strategies to put together the kind of customer engagement approaches that set them apart from competitors.

9. Simplify individualise, and maximise engagement across the board. A good customer engagement partner will additionally help organisations simplify individualise, and maximise engagement across the board, making it easy for companies and their customers to engage meaningfully. Additionally, this partner should be able to help curate and implement customer engagement solutions and technologies that complement and optimise the organisation’s current ecosystem to generate highly measurable results.

10. Control the experience. Ultimately, organisations can do little to control the macroeconomic circumstances that lead to them and their customers having to tighten their budgets. But they can control the experience that they give their customers and that starts with the kind of proactive, quality engagements which really set them apart from their competitors.


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