SMEs: Why customer is essential

Timi Olubiyi, Ph.D

In Nigeria, the increasing rate of unemployment is placing even more pressure on people and youths to start their own business for sustainability and to obtain a steady income. Therefore, it is imperative to state that customer is the foundation and lifeblood of such business’ or organization including its success. Notably there are several factors contributing to the success (or failure) of a business, customer satisfaction is one of them. If your company or business is experiencing a drop in sales, low profitability, decline patronage, slow or no business growth, and also high turnover rate of staff, it could all be customer experience related issues. The customers could be the biggest disruptor of all the mentioned indicators because only customers create the needed value in any business. In my opinion, no business function is as important as satisfying customers’ interests or needs.

 

To share an experience, I was shocked to see a woman seated with her wares recently in my area in Lagos State. On this particular morning during my workout, I saw the woman waiting and hoping for patronage with her wares, alone and expectant very early in the morning. Though, it was difficult to understand why she could venture into displaying wares under a tree that wee hour of the day with no visible patronage. More so knowing that the majority of the residents’ drive in their personal cars hurriedly and swiftly in the mornings. Consequently, noticing her business was difficult and might eventually reflect in her business revenue due to low or no patronage. In my opinion, the place of the customer was obviously lacking and that could threaten the business survival. The experience I had informed this article because I saw a micro business with a determined operator but got worried about the place of customer in the business, which to me is any business’s lifeblood. Agreeably, the customer is important and is vital to the success of any business enterprise. The quality and positioning of SME products or services are cardinal in the marketplace and to the attraction of customers.

 

As a priority, SME operators and entrepreneurs should think seriously about economic indicators such as income, demographics, market expectations, competitors, customer engagements, and the purchasing and spending habits of target customers in decision making. Customers can tell you whether the strategies you want to implement in line with the economic indicators are in tune with the marketplace’s expectations with their patronage. As an entrepreneur or SME operator having a business is something but having steady patronage and satisfied customers is everything. More so, building a close tie with your customers help in improving your products, gain market share, run a profitable business, and increase sales or services. SMEs especially micro businesses need to understand the importance of developing relationships with their customers and also seek to maximize customer satisfaction if they want to survive over the long term. Customer experience and their continuous engagement in your business are major elements when evaluating revenue growth and profit growth.

 

A great deal of evidence supports the assertion that customer satisfaction leads to increased profitability as a result of customer loyalty and consistent repeat patronages. Numerous researches have also been conducted in various countries and sectors showing that there is an array of benefits that come from having satisfied customers. The chief of it is that when customers are satisfied, they will refer potential customers to your business and that in turn will improve patronage and revenue. It is important to remember that what satisfies customers today, may not satisfy them in a year’s time. Therefore, evaluation of customer feedbacks and reactions are significant. If overlooked, customer dissatisfaction can set in and it can spell the end for a business. Customer satisfaction should be measured by feedback on a regular basis to make sure that all concerns are addressed immediately to avoid any form of damage. If you do not care about customers’ satisfaction, do not expect them to care about your services or products.

 

In this increasingly competitive world, having strategies in place to nurture existing customers is important for SMEs, such as staying in contact via social media, phone, and letting them know about promotional events and changes ahead of time. SME operators should ensure that they have the right individuals dealing with customers feedback, so that the key objective of providing better customer service and improving customer engagement will be met.

 

It is evident from the above discussion that customers help businesses generate profits with steady patronage especially when the customers are satisfied. So, measuring customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to any form of business. Significantly, customer satisfaction can be measured in various ways, either directly from customers or indirectly through monitoring and tracking feedbacks. In order to establish and to improve on current customer relations, small businesses should collect and analyze data about the customers. This should be done regularly in order to truly understand their expectations from your business or services. Data can be gathered from the customer on a regular basis in form of complaints, opinions, reactions and comments.

 

Supportably, feedback on customer satisfaction needs to be collected regularly even on product, staff and service offerings. This data collection can be valuable in building relationships and customer loyalty. Importantly, gaining steady customers’ satisfaction requires consistent and relentless effort. Therefore, tracking feedback and work on improving it in order to make your customers more loyal and eventually turn them into brand ambassadors is key. Social media is a powerful tool to help track credible feedbacks and collect insights, ask questions, offer constant support, campaigns, send personalized messages or offers, use dedicated customer satisfaction survey tools, or any other technique that will help communicate with your customers.  SME operators will be rewarded with satisfied customers, loyalty, and continued patronage once each and every one of their requests are taken care of.

 

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article? 

Dr. Timi Olubiyi holds a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. He is a prolific investment coach, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) and a financial literacy specialist. He can be reached on the twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com,for any questions, reactions, and comments.

 

 

 

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