It's no secret that the global supply chain is in a state of crisis. Every single news headline hums to the same tune, 'supply chain delays,' 'more disruptions ahead,' 'supply chains brace themselves,' and 'supply chain costs skyrocket.' You get it. The point is that manufacturers and retailers have been struggling to keep up with customer demand while navigating the economic downturn while their customers are growing increasingly frustrated with the situation.
Understandably, at the onset of all of the disruptions, companies were forced to take a reactive approach that was focused on the 'right here and now' and less on the long way ahead. The good news is that this period of upheaval has provided an opportunity for companies to win back their customers' trust - and even attract new business by beginning to transition from survival mode to creating sustainable relationships with their customers. Here are a few ways to do just that:
1. Own the situation.
Your customers will appreciate your candor if you're upfront about the difficulties your company is facing. They're likely already aware of the general issues at play, but they'll appreciate your honesty nonetheless. Customer behavior has changed dramatically during the past two years alone, but one thing that has become very clear is their preference for quality communication and a prioritized user experience.
Have transparent conversations with customers, whether or not you can sell to them at the moment, to learn where and who they’re looking to get material from to bridge the gap in production in the meantime. Share product line changes and inform customers what will and will no longer be included in production for the foreseeable future so they, too can plan accordingly.
Likewise, be honest about lead times. If you're estimating a 6-8 week lead time, but are saying something vague like 'soon', this isn't a full proof approach to winning back customer trust in loyalty. Instead, be honest and keep them in the loop with regular updates.
2. Keep communication lines open.
Make sure your customers know how to reach you - and that you're listening when they reach out. This is a good time to review your customer service procedures and make sure they're up to snuff. Don't just tell them what they want to hear, but reassure them with refreshing candor and transparency so they know that they are working with good people who are doing the best they can to navigate the tumultuous state of the supply chain to fulfill their customer's needs.
While you may not be able to provide the same level of service you did before the crisis, you can still go above and beyond to meet your customers' needs by finding alternative and perhaps even better routes. Show them that you're willing to go the extra mile, and they'll remember it when things return to normal. If your company is able, offer to help them pivot to fill their needs.
Willingness to go the extra mile is the ultimate currency in purchasing brand loyalty with today's consumer behavior trends.
3. Take the long view
Remember that your relationship with your customers is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't try to win them back with a short-term fix; instead, focus on rebuilding their trust so that you have a solid foundation for the future. Take this time to refine your processes and improve the customer experience by eliminating any negative impact on operations now.
By following these tips, you can come out of the current crisis stronger than ever - and with a loyal customer base to show for it.