“A person is like the long grass. If you treat it well, it grows well. If you do not, it withers.” – Akan proverb
The greater challenge of businesses is how to win and keep customers. Every business caters to and for some type of customer. The question is, how involved is your business with this group of patrons who ultimately decide whether to support you financially with their purchases of your products and services? The profitability of your business is dependent on your sales; and your sales are dependent on your customers and how often they patronise your products and services.
This knowledge takes us into the customer loyalty zone – which is significantly more influenced by how effectively a business upholds its fundamental commitments than by how exquisite the customer experience may be. Interestingly, many businesses have failed in this area and suffered as a result from lost customers. In other words, it is not the task of businesses to make claims about excellent service delivery, as many do now. It is the right of the customer. They are the ones who have the right to tell you whether their interaction with your business was pleasing to them and whether they will even tell the world about it.
Customers are not commodities and must not be treated as such. They are emotional beings who can resist you by spending their monies elsewhere. It is the reason many authors and researchers have labelled them as royalty. Their interactions with businesses are always exciting and rewarding. But do we exhibit enough care about them?
And as customers grow fond of the products and services of businesses, they must be respected for their instincts and final judgments because they can sense when they are being patronised and when they are being dignified. This brings to the fore unspoken objectives of business – which include creating relationships that inspire people to spend their monies on their products and services. It is a relational activity that is weighed on the scales of customers.
We are all aware that customers are not only crucial to the success of businesses, but are also the ones who drive businesses’ growth on numerous levels. They are the folks who use the products and/or services repeatedly, and who also recommend them to others. They serve as unpaid evangelists for your business. That is why the call to know, appreciate and care for customers is always ongoing. It is a reminder that businesses must not only focus on delivering products and services, but also must learn to keep their customers intrigued and engaged.
In a world where consumers are spoilt for choice, a business’s capacity to survive depends on its ability to care about its customers. This value is best introduced and maintained when management constantly upholds it within their own workforce first. We are talking about establishing a culture of caring for customers. And it must be such that every employee, every team-member should be able to – no matter the situation – demonstrate knowledge for customers in a quick, understanding and solution-focused manner.
To achieve this culture of care for customers, whereby they feel appreciated and valued, businesses must set expectations and establish accountability from employees. For starters, leaders and managers within organisations and businesses must exhibit the attitudes and actions they want to see their teams deliver to customers. They should start with respecting everyone, from their core staff to those front-line personnel; and use effective, polite communication with all of them. Like the proverbial “charity begins at home”, the employees – who are the foremost of your internal customers – must experience the culture of care you want delivered to outsiders before they can confidently emulate it.
This attitude is synonymous to ‘walking your talk’ and eliminating any falsity about the behaviour you expect your team to provide to others. When you can respond positively and courteously to your team, they are more likely to treat your customers the same way. It becomes the corporate culture and ultimately their habit. Additionally, you should track how team members behave toward each other, and you must be ready to take corrective action when you find opportunities for improvement; just like you would do with your finances…
Kodwo Brumpon is a partner at Brumpon & Kobla Ltd., a forward-thinking Pan African management consultancy and social impact firm driven by data analytics, with a focus on understanding the extraordinary potential and needs of organisations and businesses to help them cultivate synergies which catapult them into their strategic growth and certify their sustainability.
Comments, suggestions and requests for talks and training should be sent to him at kodwo@brumponand kobla.com