Businesswise | Four ways micro and small businesses sabotage themselves
"That's why mi no like do business with small man, you know. I have less problems when dealing with more established companies."
It's a complaint I've heard several times from customers disgruntled with the service they received from some micro and small business operators across the country.
As a small business owner myself, I cringe when I hear such comments because not only is it a biased generalisation that promotes discrimination based on the size rather than substance of a business's operations, but it is often untrue. There are many small businesses that offer outstanding service, outpacing and outclassing the offerings of their larger and more complacent counterparts.
However, ironically and sadly, as a consumer who has been burnt several times by unprofessional micro and small business operators, I can understand why some people may have a preference to do business with more established companies that are more purposeful about customer satisfaction, retention, and company reputation.
It's why I am encouraging aspiring entrepreneurs and existing MSMEs to ensure that they don't give credence to negative stereotypes and sabotage their businesses in any of these four common ways:
One of the worst experiences for a customer is dealing with a company that is unreliable. Years ago, I contacted a small construction company to provide an estimate for repairs to a property that needed to be undertaken quickly.
After visiting the property and doing an assessment, it was three weeks before the company actually produced the written estimate it promised would take a day. Needless to say, I never engaged them then or at any future time and would never recommend them to anyone.
In this highly competitive environment where consumers are more sophisticated and demanding than ever before, one of the most important success factors for any business is to be dependable.
Whether the business provides essentials or urgently needed services like health care, security, electrical, or plumbing, or
non-essentials like barbering, hairdressing, dress making, construction, etc, customers expect you to deliver what you promise, when you promise.
Another way businesses appear amateur and sabotage themselves is by being inconsistent. The most common example is in the food and restaurant business.
It's typical for food establishments to run out of basic menu items or popular dishes, or even worse, for the quality of the food to vary each time you purchase. Customers expect to receive the same standard, quality, and even price of the products and services they consume each time they make a purchase.
The key to maintaining consistency is standardisation, documentation, and quality control. It's critical to write out operational processes and for employees to be faithful to the processes and standards and for there to be quality-assurance mechanisms in place to detect and avoid inconsistencies.
A customer's worst nightmare is a business that does not stand behind what it sells, especially when there exists the likelihood of receiving substandard goods or services. Too many businesses are only concerned with making the sale and are not willing to provide warranties or to act in good faith where they may be at fault.
Although under Jamaican law consumers have a right to receive quality goods that are fit for purpose, and to be compensated where a business fails to deliver this, customers shouldn't need to seek the intervention of the Consumer Affairs Commission to enforce those rights.
One way for MSMEs to gain competitive advantage is to have integrity as a core value and to translate that operationally into warranties and guarantees for products and services that go above and beyond the minimum statutory obligation to customers.
POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE AND EXPERIENCE
Little or no regard for customer service is probably the worst way businesses unwittingly sabotage themselves. Almost every week, I'm inundated with messages, stories, or social media posts from people complaining about horrendous customer service across the island.
In fact, hardly a day goes by that I don't have reason to complain about atrocious customer service I've experienced from a business or service provider.
Digital technology and social media have strengthened the voice and power of customers so much that one bad experience can go viral to thousands of people in a matter of minutes. The result can be catastrophic for businesses.
When it comes to customer service, MSMEs cannot afford the luxury of trial and error or slowly climbing up the learning curve. They need immediate investment in building capacity to deliver exceptional service. This will necessitate hiring experts to provide training and consulting in creating world-class customer experiences with extraordinary service.
If all MSMEs mastered being reliable and consistent in the
provision of their products and services, while offering satisfactory warranties on same and ensuring that their customers have exceptional experiences, it would go a far way in transforming their company's image and bottom line.