Big four customer fails business should avoid


Take time to know your customers. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Ever entered into a supermarket, pick a shopping cart, and start meandering up and down through the aisles? You came into the store with a shopping list.

After locating everything on your grocery list with relative ease, three remaining items perplexed you. You walked all around the aisles unable to find the additional particulars or see a sign referring to their category.

Exacerbated, you decide to look for a supermarket employee to assist in your search. You gaze to your left, you peer to your right, but your eyes fail to behold a single employee anywhere.

So, you decide to give up your search for your additional items and head all the way to the front of the store to pay and leave the premises.

Many of us become frustrated with our disdain for customer service from supermarkets to restaurants to universities to service providers. Most times a business owner creates an environment of dismal customer experiences for one of four reasons.

First, laissez-faire leaders do not take initiative to determine what customers need. Such business executives just put some employees together and ignore industry staff-to-customer ratios. Laissez-faire managers fail to conduct any market research and instead copycat what they see in other establishments or what they conjure up in their own imaginations.

Second, business managers who cut costs at every turn fall into the adage: penny wise pound-foolish. Business owners may see that an extra staff member patrolling the back aisles of a grocery store may cost them an extra Sh1,500 per day.

However, they fail to realise that the supermarket might lose Sh100,000 per day from foregone sales when customers cannot get answers to their questions or find desired products.

The owner takes her Suzuki home happy in the knowledge that she saves Sh1,500 each day but ignorant that she instead could be driving home a Bentley from the higher sales she misses by her overly cheap decisions.

Third, a failure to understand what delights a customer. Some businesses try to act preemptively by giving customers a venue to share concerns through post-payment surveys. Java House and Big Square famously survey their clientele through SMS questionnaires.

But instead of serving as a customer discovery tool, such engagements often just provide a venting platform for very angry clients.

Strategy and marketing executives instead need to spend time sitting in their stores, offices, etc and watch what delights customers that they do not capture in a post-transaction SMS. Do nice cashiers make the customer the most happy? Or does a wide variety of food choices excite clients? If so, what flavours and strength of flavours? Perhaps the artwork in an establishment makes all the difference.

Watching customer reactions first-hand and interacting with them in the moment can give businesses a substantial edge over their competitors.

Fourth, ineffective processes that fail to put the right employees in the right places and the right times.

A supermarket in a glitzy Westlands high-end mall might retain an adequate number of employees to meet customer needs. But rather than disburse throughout the store in order to attentively meet customer needs, they may instead congregate in the front of the store near the cashiers to socialise and tell jokes while waiting for customers to finish their shopping.

Such mentality assumes that customers will trek all the way to the front of a supermarket to make an inquiry instead of realising that the customer instead just forgoes spending on items.

The supermarket, in turn, earns less revenue which then trickles down to lower amounts available for staff salaries.

Low employee proactiveness combined with poor processes earn the firm less returns. A proper process eliminates this service gap.

In short, do not fall victim to the big four customer fails. Take time to know your customers, analyse what delights your customer, study and implement the right staff-to-customer ratio, and put processes that ensure employees engage with customers properly.