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How to update your 2009 customer strategy

Get tips for updating your 2009 customer strategy and growing your business during a recession in this Q&A. Learn about the Return on Customer concept.

In your opinion, how should companies update and revamp their customer strategies in order to stay successful in 2009?
We want to stay successful in any year, but 2009 is going to be a challenging year worldwide. There's not a country on earth that isn't affected by the current downturn in the economy, and the fact that customers are more cautious than usual. So, that means that we really need to think about updating and revamping customer strategies, not just for the new year, but for the new year in the context of a difficult economic situation.

Now, this is a wonderful opportunity for some companies to pull ahead of their competitors. Unfortunately, some competitors have a knee-jerk reaction that a great way to save money or deal with low income and a cut in revenues is to cut their services and capabilities for customers. This is the farthest thing from the truth. If anything, this is the most important time to cement relationships with customers, reassure them, gain their trust and make sure they know that you're doing what's best for them.

So, if you're going to be looking at customer strategy in 2009, what you want to do is make sure that you don't give customers the impression that because times are hard for you, you're making times harder for them. If anything, you want to get across that you understand their pain and will try to help them through this time.

This is also a great time to take a really good look at the metrics that you're using as a company -- not just the financial metrics, customer behavior metrics, or attitudinal metrics, such as customer satisfaction, but at your own customer financial metrics. We believe in Return on Customer (ROC). We have a book out by that name, and when you look at ROC, what you're able to do is balance the short-term and the long-term success of your firm. You give your employees, for example, credit for the amount of money that they helped us make from a particular customer this quarter, but at the same time you try to understand whether or not value has been created at the cost of the future, or in addition to building equity with that same customer in the future. So, the question for companies that are practicing ROC is not just how much did you make from customers this quarter, but how much did you make this quarter and what is the long-term value of those customers projected to be? This way you're never tempted to do anything in the short-term, even in the bad economy, that will cut the value of these customers in the long run.

Hear more in Creating Customer Value, a SearchCRM.com monthly podcast series with Peppers and Rogers.

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