By Mfonobong Inyang
One of the most important clichés in business is that “the customer is always right” or “the customer is king.” Both phrases converge as the consensus that business people and businesses should be more customer-centric in their strategic thinking and operations. Whether you are in paid employment or a full-time entrepreneur, the customers are responsible for the success of your organization.
Unfortunately, many businesses haven’t gotten this memo. Many times, while taking a quiet stroll on the usually savage streets of TwitterNG, I witness a lot of gbas gbos, where, interestingly, the dragging isn’t for an unmet expectation but more for a poor response to a below-par service. The customer experience journey has to be very intentional, and one way of doing that is mastering the art of effective listening.
When there is a complaint from your customer, the first thing you should do is resist the urge to shalaye, just fem! Just hear them out, allow them to rant and vent their spleen! It has a cathartic value, this is so important that I feel it should be in the Nigerian constitution. Afterward, you can give a more measured and educated response instead of regurgitating a bunch of PR lines like a robot, choose to be an actual human being.
I came up with a very interesting list of comments I gathered from the streets of social media and simulated what they could imply in terms of customer feedback.
Just Have Sense!
Most customers are not asking for too much. They just want to deal with businesses that are sensitive to their unique demands. Sense, here, isn’t just referring to intelligence quotient but more about emotional intelligence. You have to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses first and also socially aware of your business environment – of which your customer is a key stakeholder. It is one of the most iconic lessons you will ever learn in conflict resolution.
When your customers begin to para for you, don’t just stand there looking at them throw tantrums, sometimes you need to keep it moving like an able-bodied youth and show that you’re working on a solution – even it’s just for the optics. People paid you to solve a business inconvenience and if you do nothing to give them succour, you might as well refund their money. In attempting a solution, at least you will be given an E for effort.
With Your Full Chest!
When it comes to customer satisfaction, you either do it big or go home – no middle ground. Learn to under-promise but over-deliver, customers are all for that. That’s how you command respect and muster the confidence to demand premium prices with your full chest. If you cannot make a case for a value-add at a base level, customers will tell you they don’t have the facilities for a price increase especially for what they consider a mediocre service.
Especially when there is little or no marginal cost involved, go out of your way to give customers extra utility. Many companies offer free delivery on orders or purchases beyond a certain threshold. This is a win-win for both parties, you get more sales revenue and the customer gets more value for their money. Don’t put a cap on how much additional value your customers should enjoy if it’s inconsequential to you.
It Is What It Is
Sometimes there is no sweet-talking or sugar-coating a difficult conversation. Recently, certain business costs in form of levies, taxes, power charges, inflation and exchange rate fluctuation have shot up everything and eroded profit margins. You need to onboard your customers and let them know the inevitable: a higher service fee. Your goal is not to change the situation but to make them sympathetic to you in light of current business realities.
You Don’t Mean It?
One of the most unforgivable sins you can make is to tell a client you understand their brief but go on to execute rubbish! They are not paying you to do what you want but what they want, ignoring their preference is the ultimate middle finger. Your strategy sessions should be about understanding the spoken and unspoken expectations of your customers. Afterward, send them an email detailing the key points to be sure you’re both on the same page.
Apply More Pressure!
Most times your customers are not convinced about a novel idea you’re selling to them. Their fears may include: the intended project, campaign or product is very expensive and they are unsure of the returns on investment, hesitance to subscribe for a premium package, or a fear of public backlash. Your job as the connoisseur is lay all the cards on the table and walk them through the different merits of each option. Step into their office and get them to act!
Don’t build an edifice at the strategy stage, just get to work already! Whilst strategy is very important, there are scenarios where execution will eat up strategy for breakfast! Dragging your feet all in the name of planning can irk most customers because, like they say on these streets, “time na money!” Don’t rush, at the same time don’t slouch, find a delicate balance for determining your ideation period.
You need to follow your customer’s business as much as you can. Knowing more about their own challenges not only makes you more empathetic but also puts you in the position to better develop custom-solutions for them. Some clients might not want your nose in their business every time but where permissible, always follow them. It moves the needle from a mere transaction to a relationship.
That One Dey!
Customers are not kidding when they say they want results! Don’t think because you have a rich client, you can brazenly inflate prices. If anything, wealthy clients are most demanding for value because that’s how they got wealthy in the first place! You must meet every customer’s expectation whether they are mass-market clients or premium clients.
It Was A Pleasure!
This is one of the highest compliments a customer can give you after a business transaction, it means he or she was thoroughly satisfied and received value for money. Remember Maya Angelo’s timeless quote? “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
E Shock You?
In business, as in life, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. This economy is unforgiving and the business climate is certainly not a preacher of love – so don’t expect tranquility all the time. Even as a father figure, some crazy BS can come from nowhere and stain your white. The devil wears Prada too, so your prayer should be, “God no go shame us.”
There will always be multiple choices but the major key in all of these is to ensure you get and retain your customers’ vote of confidence. That’s the surest way of moving from mere sales to patronage! Don’t forget to chop life because problems no dey finish.