Any period of business turnaround is a crucial time for a business. If your business is in business turnaround then basically you are going through a period of ‘business rescue’, with the aim to save your business from insolvency. One thing that is vital to the survival of your business during this time is to ensure that your customer service is kept up to scratch.
Of course, without customers business simply would not exist. If a company is troubled, those customers become a particularly important piece of the map towards achieving recovery. This is not always easy during a time of business turnaround operations; by their very nature these operations can see cuts made in certain areas of the business in order to lean out overall spend. Issues with customer service can start to be seen when one of the areas affected by cuts is the human capital of the business.
It may seem counter-intuitive to make cuts in an area responsible for the overall customer service and satisfaction of a business, but the reality is that retrenchment is one of the most commonly used strategies during a business turnaround. If this is not managed with a focus on customer service, then the business will be in danger of losing those valuable customers and digging itself into a deeper hole financially.
A recent example which has resonated globally has been in the banking sector in the post-GFC period. Many large banks world-wide found themselves in a position where either they were not comfortable financially, or new government regulations dictated that they needed a more secure financial position. Retrenchment strategy has been employed heavily in the last few years by many banks and it is often the customers who are feeling the pain. How long did you wait for service the last time you were in your local branch? One thing that the banks need to remember is that it is not difficult for customers to vote with their feet and change providers. The Ernst and Young Global Consumer Banking Survey 2012 revealed that there has been a significant increase in the number of customers planning on changing banks, with customer service issues being the number #2 factor behind fees cited as reason for changing.
Inventory management is another important area to consider in terms of customer service when going through a business turnaround. Often stock sitting in inventory is leaned right out to bare minimum in order to free up cash-flow. However, this needs to be managed very carefully in order to ensure that customer service is not unduly affected. You don’t want customers to be put off by long wait times on stock, possibly pushing them to a competitor.
Remember, in terms of ‘business rescue’, your customers are your bread and butter.
Here are a few tips for keeping up customer service during a business turnaround;
- Evaluate retrenchment scenarios carefully. What is the minimum number of staff required to keep up current (or even improve if that is an issue) customer service levels? What are your peak times for customer service requirements? Could this be managed with, for example, part time staff covering busy periods?
- Know your inventory requirements. Have a good stock management system in place and understand what the average turnover is for your stock. Keep inventory in accordance with this.
- Teach new skills, core values and vision to your staff! It is very important that you do what you can to keep up staff morale and have a culture of pride in customer service.
- Evaluate your customer service processes; is there anything that is looking cumbersome and could be improved? Do what you can to make the customer experience seamless.