When times are good, communicating with customers is easy. Travel budgets are typically flush with cash, optimism abounds and your desire to discuss company direction is high. However, in difficult times one of the first things to drop off in many companies is customer interaction. Whether because of budget cuts or the more serious problem — loss of company confidence — communicating with customers seems to go by the wayside when times get tough.
Regardless of how well your company is doing, you need to communicate with customers. In a recent IBD article, Gloria Lau emphasized the importance of customer relationships:
Get out there and make sure clients know you’re there for them. A lot of suppliers are spending time internally focused, curtailing travel expenses. Instead, this is the time when you should spend more money with customers. You need to build those relationships to let clients know you’ll be there for them in the long term. Once you have a solid relationship with customers and you help them through a crisis, their memories can be pretty long.
In difficult economic times spending money to interact with customers is a sound investment. Spending time and money on potential customers is also relevant. Chances are your competitors are not making the same effort, so make the most of your opportunities.
The Product Management Perspective: Much has been written about the importance of customer visits to the success of your products. As the product manager you have a tremendous opportunity to not only gain great insight for your products, but also to set the standard for your company with regard to communicating with your customers.