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Building advantage in a recession through stronger Customer

Pramod Bhasin
Friday, June 5, 2009
Pramod Bhasin
The world has changed dramatically in the last 6-12 months, as we all know. The weak economic scenario has changed the business focus of companies around the world. Most companies are faced with challenges in terms of costs and profitability like they have never seen before. The priority has shifted from growth and expansion to reducing costs and preserving and managing cash.

We also witness interesting behavioral changes. There is a new sense of urgency. Companies have moved from in-depth research about issues to immediate action. Studies are out…just doing it is in. And in an environment where things are constantly in a flux, there is a new appreciation for business agility. As the CFO of one of our clients related, "When every two weeks all bets are off and everything changes…we have to be more nimble to change rather than strive for accuracy, as none exists…"

It is also clear that there is receptivity to new ideas like never before. Customers are looking for innovation and leadership from their vendors and service providers, especially as it relates to the financial outlook of their companies. Business leaders are caught up figuring out where revenue will end up and, quite frankly, have little time for anything else. They are also more amenable to driving new ideas that might have been difficult or off the limits during better times. The key today is pragmatism, delivering thought leadership that will address the key pain points of business today: revenue pressure, need to improve cash flow, need to increase margins, and take cost out.

Today’s environment necessarily changes the perspective of how a company should interact with its clients and how the management team needs to redirect the business and their teams. Now is the time to draw close to customers. Listening and sensitivity in this environment is critical for the success of the customer and your own company. Customers are looking for solutions from every source, and it is up to your company to step in and try and help.

At this point of time we should think about this in terms of understanding our clients, redefining value in the terms that meet their needs today, and insuring that what we are offering is highly relevant to today’s economic picture. Organizations should coach employees who interact with customers, from both sales and at an operational level, to constantly be on the look out for opportunities to deliver increased business impact. We have to increase our outreach to insure that we remain in touch with our clients' businesses. With the pace of change, a normal rhythm is no longer enough. You can’t possibly understand what their pain points are, nor be able to deliver meaningful content and ideas if you approach customer engagement as business as usual.

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