So far we have dealt with Finance and Margins. Today we have a look at your Customer’s requirements.
In my experience, one of the biggest challenges for SMME’s (Small, Medium, Micro Enterprises) is retaining clients. Now I am really not sure why this should be since the fact of the matter is that it is easier to sell to existing clients than it is to procure new ones. So what’s the deal? Perhaps it is because we don’t really know who and what a customer is!
The Wiki says that “A customer (also known as a client, buyer, or purchaser) is usually used to refer to a current or potential buyer or user of the products of an individual or organization, called the supplier, seller, or vendor. This is typically through purchasing or renting goods or services.”So how do we retain our customers? How do we ensure that we not only find new customers, but that we continue to sell our services and our products to current customers or even customers who we have not sold anything to in years?
Well there seems to be a whole host of different options and tips – some of these are (but not limited to):-
- The personal touch. Here’s an example of both good and bad. I have been a client of Nedbank in my personal capacity for in excess of 30 years now, and in my business capacity for almost 17 years – quite frankly I bank with them through absolute habit, it certainly is not because of the service that they have given me over the years, but rather the perceived hassle of changing banks, debit orders etc. that keeps me with them. I have no idea who my ‘personal banker’ is, or if indeed I have one. I have been dealing with the Cresta branch for the last 20 odd years and sadly the only person who knows my name, when I walk in, is the security guard. In my opinion, the security guard should be doing their PR, he greets most people by name, always with a smile and a sunny disposition and the good that that does is soon smashed to pieces by the ineffectual, anal retentive service received by the branch staff. So make sure that you give your clients your absolute attention and use your personal touch as part of your branding and marketing.
- Assumption – I always say that perception and assumption are the two most dangerous words on the planet – and certainly what I am going to say now will bear that out. Just because your customers are not complaining, don’t assume that everything is peachy! Your perception of ‘everyone is happy because no-one is complaining’ is probably so far off the mark that it is scary. Many people don’t complain, they just vote with their feet or their wallets. Ask them if they are happy and if they aren’t do something about it!
- Expectations – all customers expect to receive good service and that is a reasonable expectation. Not only meeting that expectation, but exceeding it will bring them great delight and will go a long way to ensure that they become loyal customers. Remember though, do it once and the customer will expect even more the next time around, so don’t stop trying to do better.
- Customization – “One man’s food is another man’s poison!” Just because one client is crazy about your product or your service, doesn’t mean that everyone will be. Be prepared to ‘customize’ your product or service to meet the requirement of the client. In fact, make sure that what you are selling (service or product) is what the client wants, rather than what you think that the client may need. Next time we will have a look at managing your working capital.