How to turn economic recession to advantage



Economic recession presents suppliers with a golden opportunity to build closer relationships with their customers, according to a University of Lincoln academic.


Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas, Professor of Direction and Leadership at the Lincoln Business School, told a gathering of customer service practitioners in Oman that successful companies work with customers to find better ways of helping them to cope with tough times.


He told delegates: “Economic hardship brings latent qualities to the surface. While the self-centred worry about how they will be impacted, caring companies distinguish themselves by enabling their customers to confront the challenges and opportunities of economic hardship. A friend in need really is a friend indeed. How people behave in a down turn is an acid test. Customers are not fools. They see how suppliers react and whether ‘customer focus’ is rhetoric or reality.”


The customer service event in Oman took place in the Safeer Ballroom of the Zakher Mall in Al Khuwair, Muscat. It allowed delegates to share the findings of recent projects to build more mutually beneficial relationships with customers.


Prof Coulson-Thomas showed how pioneering companies use a new generation of tools to support people in the frontline.


“They enable customer-facing staff to quickly respond to the distinct requirements of individual customers,” he said. “Built-in checks ensure bespoke responses do not cause quality, commercial or regulatory problems. Staff are liberated to do what they feel is best for a particular client. ”


He emphasized that employees, managers and directors need to understand that customers are the source of value, corporate revenues and their salaries.


Prof Coulson-Thomas said: “Where and whenever there are competitors people may take their custom elsewhere. In many cases they can simply go on-line and buy over the internet. Customers can no longer be taken for granted.”


It may not be too late for companies to change their ways and reap the benefits, according to the professor.


He said: “Customer disappointment, frustration and dissatisfaction can represent an opportunity rather than a problem for organisations that are committed to raising their customer service standards. Improved customer service might enable them to differentiate themselves from competitors and win customers from them.”


It may not be necessary to improve every aspect of customer service at once.


Prof Coulson-Thomas said: “One should start by endeavouring to better understand what represents value to customers and addressing areas that will have the greatest, quickest and most visible impact upon customers. People can be equipped to emulate the approaches of high performers and successfully tackle difficult challenges.”


He explained that a new approach that transforms customer relationships while making it easier for people to do their jobs is usually welcomed.


“Most employees do not wake up each morning eager to rush to work in order to frustrate customers,” he said. “Once improvements occur they are likely to find themselves become more fulfilled. Helping others can be both satisfying and rewarding.”


Notes -


Prof Colin Coulson-Thomas, Professor of Direction and Leadership at the University of Lincoln, has reviewed the processes and practices of over 100 companies, helped over 100 boards to improve board and/or corporate performance, and spoken at over 200 national, international and corporate conferences in 35 countries.


More than 2,000 companies have participated in Prof Coulson-Thomas’ research programme, which examines what the most successful people, teams and companies do differently in areas such as building relationships with customers.


Reports setting out identified critical success factors and his book Winning Companies; Winning People can be obtained from: