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Weathering the recession: Building lasting relationships in hard times

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In lean times, your customers may consider making changes in their buying decisions. Their loyalty to you as a vendor is being challenged by this economic crisis. To retain customer loyalty, keep in close touch with your customers. Lasting relationships are built in hard times. In a difficult economy, loyalty delivers bottom-line results.

The cost to acquire a new customer is five to 10 times greater than the cost of retaining an existing one. It's time to ensure loyalty with your customers by utilizing the "back to basics" of customer service. Just adding other products or services to your offerings is not enough. At best, it's a waste of time and money. Worse, it can damage your core business by taking your focus away from what you do best and may ultimately damage your business name and reputation.

It is important to realize that during these times your customer's focus may be solely on cost and the bottom line. But, their service expectation has not changed. Lean times are exactly the times when smart business leaders devote their resources toward keeping existing business by cross-selling to current customers and partnering with them on smart cost savings measures.

Vicki Langley

If you are going to come out ahead in this economic downturn, your company must remain focused on the long term. Today's smart business leaders are the ones who recognize the value of customer loyalty and will remain resolute in developing and strengthening those customer loyalty bonds.

To further strengthen your customer relationship, your employees will also play an important role. When customers contact your company, buy a product or service, your employees have the opportunity to develop an even broader and deeper relationship between your business and the customer. Make these critical contacts as meaningful and helpful to the customer as possible. If you want your customers to remain loyal, it is imperative that both you and your employees pay attention to your customer service practices, fully understand your customers' needs, and ultimately exceed your customers' expectations. This has never been more true than today. The most important basic is to show you value your customer, make every customer contact positive, and turn every challenge into an opportunity.

There is no better time than now, and no better way to grow your business than by investing in your current customer base. Recognize that when the business climate changes, so too will the needs of your customers. Understand how their business is being affected and look for ways you can help. Doing so will recession-proof your business, your employees, and ensure you and your customers survive tough times.

Langley is senior vice president of PACWEST Security Services. She may be contacted at vickil@pacwestsecurity.com or visit www.pacwestsecurity.com.

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