Dos & Don'ts in a Downturn

Anyone who travels for business will agree that the airlines are putting almost no effort in the area of customer service. In fact, service has gone from bad to terrible. Certainly, fuel costs and competition have taken a big bite out of their income, but airlines are obviously unconvinced of the long-term damage bad customer service is going to have on their respective companies. There are many things we could list that would cost little or nothing but would help them now and into the future.
At last check, business optimism is the lowest since 1982, and when optimism is low, customer service is one of the first casualties. Large businesses tend to take forever to change direction toward noticeably better customer service, but small businesses, like yours, are much more flexible. It requires a solid commitment and the ability to keep your business upbeat during trying economic times.
First, and perhaps most importantly, don’t skimp on friendly, professional customer service. This should be one of the constants in your business regardless of national or local economic conditions. Companies that are shorting customers now because they feel that customers are only interested in price are mistaken. Anything less than “golden” customer service will lead to a downward spiral in service, and the tailspin will become difficult to reverse. Don’t be like the airlines.

Here are just a few other thoughts for your consideration:

  • Go on the offensive. It’s important to keep your business upbeat. Competitors, like sharks, can smell a few drops of blood in the water. If they sense severe weakness and think your business might fail, competitors can be tempted to expand their businesses to take advantage of the upcoming void.
  • Instead of being on the defensive, go on the offensive. There are timely operational and marketing opportunities for your rental business in these tough economic times. Have your business analyzed. Discover your market-unique opportunities and implement strategies to capitalize on them.
  • Consider adding rental items that are different from what you’re offering now. Just because something didn’t make sense in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be a winner now.
  • Take an objective look at the advertising you’re doing. There might be some savings from unproductive efforts. On the other hand, resist the temptation to cut for cutting’s sake. It might even be beneficial to increase spending for certain forms of advertising. Past adversiting efforts might be too weak for today’s needs.
  • Keep your employees upbeat and friendly. Find new ways to energize them. Reassure and encourage them — we all need this during economic downturns.
  • Try not to compete solely on price.

It might seem during an economic down time that price is the customer’s one and only concern, but it isn’t.
It took a while for our economy to get into the mess it’s in, and it will take a while to get healthy again. But, your business doesn’t have to follow the slow pace of the economic revival. Keep your business upbeat by investing at a time when others are cutting each and every expense. Do the things that will help position your business for the coming year — and for many years to come.