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Strategies to manage Key Customers through Difficult Situations



During the pandemic, businesses have learned that managing key customers is essential to surviving difficult situations like economic downturns, supply shortages, and more. A business’s key customers are the clients that have long-standing relationships with and make up a large, consistent share of a company’s revenue.


Many businesses rely on their key customers for recurring revenue and would be devastating to lose. Therefore, systems like Ascendo that can improve customer communications are vital to maintaining these important relationships.


What Are Key Customers?


Managing key customers can be incredibly difficult because just like any business, they are susceptible to market downturns and will walk away from deals if pricing and services are no longer worth the cost.


An easy way to determine your key customers is by looking at the following:


1. The customer’s lifetime value

2. Level of influence and/or authority in the market

3. Additional revenue and referrals they contribute

4. Level of commitment to shared partnership goals


Why Are Key Customers Important?


Focusing on what products or services drive revenue with key customers allows the business to understand which activities are most profitable. Ultimately, this can determine a company’s mission, products and services, and overall market strategy.


The best way to approach key customers is to view them as a separate segment of the market. A company’s key customers will likely have higher demands and lower growth than newer customers but are more important.


Due to the prolonged relationship, many key customers will rely on a business like a support team rather than a supplier. A support team needs to be able to respond quickly to business communications and remain agile in order to properly manage these key customers. This type of relationship comes with major benefits when handled correctly.


Key customers are great for pitching new ideas and testing new marketing strategies since they are more loyal than newer clients. However, key customers can also be demanding of a company’s time and sometimes boundaries need to be set. It can be common for key customers to demand freebies or contact account managers on the weekends, which is a bad practice to maintain. That is why using a communications platform like Ascendo can help bridge gaps in communication and strengthen feedback loops in order to improve relationships with your key customers.


How to Communicate with Key Customers


The relationships with key customers are often complicated with longstanding contracts, communication precedents, and big egos, it’s important to treat these relationships with care. Companies should be available to quickly respond to all sorts of issues like technical support, product questions, and more.


Maintaining a constant feedback loop as the support team for your key customers is crucial for keeping the relationship in good standing. This can look like bi-weekly check-ins, email newsletters, or an occasional conference call to gauge emotions on both sides. The constant feedback loop can help identify issues with a client, or a larger problem with the products or services.


Further, when working on a project or sales pitch, support teams should provide regular updates to make sure both parties are aligned on the progress and goals. Even if a client reach’s out during a meeting or busy day, it’s important to send an email or quick message to acknowledge the issue and let them know you’re on it.


Finally, another important area of communication support teams should be aware of is identifying broader customer requirements. Through Ascendo, support teams can quickly identify if issues are common amongst multiple clients, making it easier to identify larger technical issues. When done proactively, this will lead to improvements in products and services and a better relationship with the key customers.


Gauging Client Satisfaction

The best way to understand a problem is to analyze it with data points, which is where Ascendo comes in. Through Ascendo, support teams can quickly find common problems across multiple key customers in a fraction of the time it would normally take.


Another method support teams can use are Client Satisfaction Surveys (CSAT Surveys). Most companies will send out a CSAT survey at least once a year to all clients and potentially more frequent or longer surveys to key customers. CSAT survey can help a company identify issues within their own reporting structure or other problems like communication, product/service issues, and more.


Another important metric to look at is a company’s client turnover or churn. This measure shows how frequently a company retains or loses business. While high rates of churn are normal for certain industries, every company should understand what’s normal for their industry and own company to gauge past or present turnover rates.


Finally, employees can be a great indicator of client satisfaction. Support teams should ask their own employees how the relationship is with their key customers. If key customers are being extremely demanding or difficult, it can cause high-performing employees to leave which will ultimately hurt the company and the key customer relationship. Management should always work to protect their employees and step in when the situation becomes unreasonable.



Mitigating the Avoidable and Unavoidable Problems

Support teams are generally going to tackle two types of issues, avoidable and unavoidable. No matter how much experience or planning a business does, there will always be both types of problems that need to be handled regularly.


Unavoidable issues like client turnover and technical malfunctions should be prepared for as they are almost certain to happen. Having standardized practices in place to handle these issues will inform employees of their responsibilities and the appropriate actions to take place.


Avoidable issues like missed meetings and general unpreparedness require a different approach. These types of issues can be mitigated by outlining best practices for your company so employees understand how business should be conducted.


Different Business Models Offer a Variety of Solutions

Another way companies have adapted to difficult situations is by implementing new business models. For instance, many B2B and B2C operations have adopted freemium models for customers who can’t afford the upfront cost of the product or service. This is most popular in mobile gaming and social media where companies make money by advertising to the customer rather than charging the customer for the product or service.


By testing different business models, a company can segment different buyer groups and evaluate which strategies are most effective. This too can determine a company’s objectives and strategies moving forward.


Educating your Team on Key Customer Management

Understanding how to manage key customers is only half the battle. Making sure the entire support team understands how to manage and interact with key customers is a huge factor in achieving revenue goals. Since this is so important, management should never assume that employees already know how to manage key customers, even if employees are experienced and highly trained.


Management should create a system of best practices and standards for key customers that should be reviewed with all support teams Further, this should be done on an annual basis since overall company strategies and market sentiments can change how support teams should approach key customers. For instance, if a company has experienced downsizing, it might require stricter communication boundaries to be implemented for employees to stay efficient.


Key Customers are the Key to Company Success

The value of key customers cannot be understated. Key customers are the bread and butter of any operation and are generally what companies count on for revenue goals and financial outlook.


By using Ascendo, support teams can close the feedback loop with their more important clients. Through Ascendo’s platform, support teams can analyze communications data and discover issues that can improve products and services in a fraction of the time.


When managed properly, key customers can be incredibly useful beyond the revenue they contribute. These customers are more likely to refer others to use your products and services and can also help fine tune and identify issues and opportunities for a company. As long as there is constant, transparent communication, your key customers will stay satisfied.