I recently visited a restaurant in the East Legon vicinity of Accra with a few friends. The drinks menu had some fanciful names so we inquired of the ingredients, in curiosity and also to decide which ones to go for. The first waiter couldn’t help and a second waiter also mumbled his way through the conversation and couldn’t offer much assistance. We got quite disappointed and eventually had to “try our luck” with some of the mixes, to judge the tastes. Some product knowledge from the waiters would have made a difference.
‘Who is my Customer?’ is an important question that business leaders should constantly ask. It should permeate the business ladder from multi-million USD corporations to tabletop retailers or service providers, and attempts made to answer it. A business that overlooks this question and engages in activities that are not guided by who their customers are, will be lost in the crowd! Businesses are grabbing opportunities here and there, outsmarting each other and striving to be the first to launch the smartest products/services but I believe answering this all-important question correctly is an impetus to succeeding with any opportunity the business will get with a potential customer.
You need to know who your customer is to enable you to serve them better. In my story, service at the restaurant fell short of our expectations. Could it be a failure on the part of management to know the nature of their customers and give the desired service? Your guess is as good as mine. Customers who usually visit restaurants in such communities would normally inquire further before they place an order from the menu. Management should have known and made adequate provisions.
Technological giants like Apple Inc, Samsung, Google and recently Huawei have gone on to launch successive upgrades on their devices over time because of potent Research and Development operations. A business’ R&D department (usually for large corporations) is the section that would be dedicated to researching and delving into current trends to discover how best to serve customers. The budding entrepreneur and small enterprises alike should engage in some sort of R&D to unravel who their customers are and what they desire. For instance, you cannot launch into traditional wear and accessories for men without familiarizing yourself with the taste and preferences of your target customer. Similarly, you cannot launch into manufacturing local fruit juices targeted at children without identifying the tastes they prefer.
Your customer requires your attention and needs information from you for decision making. You should be comfortable with your customer who expresses this desire. Our local culture is one that frowns on assertiveness, but rather thrives on the principle of taking what you’re given and don’t ask too many questions. As such, most businesses struggle to accommodate a customer who may demand more attention and information. This should rather be the norm and not the exception. Your customer is the person who has the right to all information concerning your product/service on offer. Don’t see your information-seeking customers as odd and bothersome. Business leaders in financial institutions and other direct service providers should particularly encourage the culture of tolerance in serving individual customers.
Your customer ALWAYS expects a positive experience with your product/service offering. Though this may not always be the outcome, be ready to rectify negative occurrences to ALWAYS give your customer a positive impression about your brand. Avoid pushing negative occurrences under the carpet without an attempt to resolve them. They will cause disappointments and a great loss to your business. Consider the entire experience of a customer who encounters your product/service. Think about this, how would a customer rate your website or rate you on social media? How quickly did you give customer feedback after an inquiry, Was your customer assisted at the parking lot?
Your customer is a human being with emotions. Expect your customer who mostly visits with a smile to be furious when unfavourable situations occur. Your customer is not a robot who should automatically understand your challenges and flow along with you whatever the outcome. With this in mind, beyond the explanations, empathize with your frustrated customer and offer options that have the potential to resolve their problem. This is particularly so in situations such as unusually long waiting times and bad products offering.
Your Customer can be your business Strategist. Customer suggestions and complaints can be a reliable source of information to guide future business strategies. Customers are actually better strategists. Your customers view your operations from the outside-in and would usually have an opinion on how to improve product layout, staff numbers that should be on the shop floor, the ideal number of teller windows to open, how flight times should be scheduled, and so on. Consider such suggestions and complaints as a rich reference point for the future strategic direction
Your customer is the future of your business. You may have cash stashed away to expand operations of your business, or have a future plan to diversify into other sectors, but your customer also remains as the future of your business. The customer supports your business in terms of patronage. For businesses that are yet to break even, it is today’s little drops of patronage that will give your entity an identity for the future. See your customer as the future of your business and do what it takes to keep them.
By Amma Adjeiwaa Antwi, M-DoZ Consulting (www.m-doz.com)
M-DoZ Consulting offers Organisational Development, Corporate Training and Financial Planning Services. We can be reached on +233247-247-200, +23320-1196-080, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook: mdozghana