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Why Businesses Need A Plan In Place For Winning Their Customers Back In 2022


Operating Partner and CEO in Residence at Gridiron Capital and the Best-Selling Author of The Elephant’s Dilemma.

Like most people, I’m hoping 2022 looks different than 2020 and 2021. But as I think about the trends I believe are going to define business this year, my mind goes back to 2020 and the problems I saw then as the co-founder of a cleaning brand. We knew then that the global supply chain was broken, and two years later, it’s still a challenge.

This isn’t breaking news. Most of us know the global supply chain is still a major issue that will have serious effects on our economy. But that’s just one trend I expect to define 2022.

There are two other trends I expect to see this year, one of which is starting to get as much buzz as our supply chain issues. But the other trend isn’t being talked about enough (if at all). And for brands that don’t make the connection between the first two trends and the third, it could be disastrous.

Cost pressure is rising.

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In addition to supply chain issues that are causing missed deliveries and low (or nonexistent) inventory levels for consumer product companies, we have to talk about cost pressure. The inflation rate reached 6.8% in the U.S. in 2021, the highest level since 1982, according to the Guardian. That’s part of the reason why you saw the price of lumber rise 127% at the end of 2021 after bottoming out earlier in the year, as well as why grocery costs are up, with the cost of certain items (like bacon) rising more than 15% in 2021.

Business owners and customers are both feeling the cost squeeze that comes with supply chain issues. The natural inclination in these situations is to raise prices in order to maintain margins. Inevitability, though, this causes friction with customers and creates lingering frustrations. In fact, we haven’t seen customer dissatisfaction like this in quite some time. The American Customer Satisfaction Index revealed in November that we’ve seen “the longest sustained period of deterioration in customer satisfaction in 25 years.”

The bottom line is this: Supply chain shortages, both in terms of products and labor, are causing inflation across many categories of consumer goods. In turn, consumers are historically upset.

This leads to our third trend.

You’re probably going to let some of your customers down.

In 2022, many businesses are not going to meet expectations for every customer. This was true before the pandemic, but this year, I believe it’s going to be true on a much larger scale. It’s simple cause and effect: Supply chain shortages and cost pressures are the causes, and disappointed customers are the effect. Yes, I’ll admit that this belief rests on a couple of assumptions, such as:

• We’ll continue to face global health challenges affecting supply chains and prices.

• We’ll also continue to experience environmental issues that have the same effect.

We might not see factories shut down again in the U.S. because of the pandemic, but what happens if China’s factories shut down, for example? There are other factors totally beyond our control that can throw a serious wrench in our ability to do business. The pandemic has only exacerbated how acutely these factors impact our economy. This is our reality now, so it’s best to start preparing for it.

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How do you prepare for it? Establish a plan to win your customers back.

When a customer walks away from your brand — either because the product you used to sell them isn’t available or because it now costs twice as much — what are you going to do?

Win your customers back.

The first step to winning customers back is to put strategies in place to communicate and give them context. We see this internally with companies already. The whole field of change management is about communicating ahead of time which direction a company is going so employees can feel included and prepared.

The same thing needs to happen between a company and its customers. Seek to communicate the context of supply chain and price issues in an authentic, one-to-one way. I’m not talking about a press release nobody will read. I’m talking about true connection and real effort.

Then, let customers know there may be a period when they choose a product that isn’t yours. Help the customer make that choice. It might feel totally counterintuitive, but what you’re going for is trust. Helping them meet their needs is a great way to build trust. Is it a guarantee they’ll return to your product in the future? No, but it’s one of the best strategies you can deploy in a difficult situation because it lets customers know you have their back.

If you want an example of a company that is doing this well, look at Kraft Heinz, which is dealing with a shortage of its Philadelphia Cream Cheese. In December, the company paid $20 to 18,000 consumers as an incentive to not make a cheesecake through its Philadelphia Spread the Feeling offer.

Are you prepared?

In 2022, what will allow brands to separate from their competition? No doubt, the ones that prepared in 2020 for the looming supply chain issues and the resulting inflation are the best positioned to succeed. They’ll still disappoint some customers, but likely not as many.

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But even those companies facing serious issues can have a winning year in 2022 if they accept the fact they’re likely going to lose at least a few customers and put a plan in place to win them back. 

I don’t know the next time I’m going to make a cheesecake, but I can tell you that if I was planning to make one for the holidays and Kraft Heinz gave me $20 to buy the ingredients to make another type of dessert, guess what I’d be doing if I wanted to make a cheesecake in 2022? I’d be buying Philadelphia Creme Cheese with a smile on my face.


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