Businesswise | Putting profits over people may put you out of business
How can a business be content earning profits from customers who are incessantly unhappy doing business with them?
It's a question frustrated consumers, myself included, grapple with almost every day in this country when doing business with entities that care less about them and more about their company's financial performance.
To add insult to injury, some of these companies invest heavily in promoting an image of themselves that is far removed from the actual experiences or service they provide, while spending very little on listening and responding appropriately to customers who are at their wits end in dealing with them.
Businesses are typically content profiting from dissatisfied customers because of one or more of the reasons below:
1. They operate in an oligopoly where consumers have limited choice;
2. They maintain a dominant market position and are complacent or arrogant;
3. They are managed by poor leaders who are short-sighted and/or bad-tempered.
Recently, a colleague shared a photo of herself on social media, teary-eyed, sitting in her car in the parking lot of a company with which she does business. She was at breaking point because of constant service interruptions she says were crippling her business, and despite numerous complaints she wasn't able to resolve the issue.
Just weeks before, she had abandoned her new company's major competitor for the very same reason. She had jumped from the frying pan into the fire and felt hopeless.
The entrepreneurs I admire locally and internationally have one very important thing in common: their motivation for and philosophy on starting a business.
They are not driven by a strong desire to be rich, but are instead motivated by a passion to deliver exceptional products or services that can enhance the lives of their customers. Their strategy for success is ensuring that their business model is built on consistently creating and maintaining happy, satisfied customers, which becomes a key pillar for value, competitive advantage and profitability.
Unfortunately, too many businesses operate in a contrary manner, measuring success solely by how much profit they can earn and how well compensated their top management is despite how miserable their customers may be.
Even more distressing is that some companies continue to get away with it because of limited competition or market failure.
Micro, small and medium sized-businesses (MSMEs) must avoid the culture of putting profits over people if they want to enjoy sustainability, profitability and build a strong brand.
The primary way to achieve this is to construct, implement and stay faithful to a customer centred business model that puts the needs, experience and satisfaction of the customer at the epicentre of their operations.
A critical prerequisite for this is to adopt as one of its core values 'customer centricity'. Constructing a customer centric model will involve researching various approaches and best practices to achieve what is termed 'the customer centric transformation'.
There is substantial literature on this topic as it is now seen as the most progressive approach to business, particularly in an increasingly competitive, globalised environment. For example, most approaches call for comprehensive change to vision and goal setting, leadership and accountability, resource requirements, processes and tools, technological systems, communications, organisational culture and alignment, learning and knowledge management, among many others.
In simple terms, for many businesses this will involve a complete reimaging and re-engineering of their operations. From the design of the goods and services to be provided, to the delivery and distribution channels, engagement and communication with customers, internal and external communications, sales, customer service and after sale support and everything in between.
It is an iterative process that must constantly be measured, reviewed, analysed and improved.
As the year draws to a close, this may be the ideal time for MSMEs to undertake a comprehensive review of their operations and devise a strategic plan to become customer centric.
However, it must be noted that for many MSMEs the expertise required to lead such a drastic but necessary initiative does not reside in-house. Therefore there will need to be make an invest in hiring the services of a competent expert who, for example, specialises in customer experience management, process review and design, etc, and can guide them through the process.
In my view, it's one of the best investments a company can make.
- Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and creator/executive producer of The Innovators TV series.