As it appeared in the daily nation of March 24th 2015
Like many customers the fact that I often have a choice gives me freedom. I am free to choose what supermarket to go to, which restaurant to go to, where to bank. There are a few times that we may have no choice. We may be invited to a certain restaurant or a certain item may only be available at a certain shop or only a particular airline goes to a certain destination. Such instances where customers have no choice are rare. The marketplace in Kenya has grown substantially in the last 2 decades. Industries providing either products or services or both have expanded with many players providing a choice to Kenyans.
The banking sector for example is headed towards maturity. The competition is becoming stiffer with many players reaching out to the same pool of customers. Many Kenyans today have multiple bank accounts and they choose where to bank. The choice of supermarkets, hospitals, hotels, universities, petrol stations, airlines etc is growing and so is the range of products available in our marketplace. Many shoppers have more than one supermarket loyalty card. They choose where to go as many of the stores are just a few meters away. In many neighbourhoods, fruit vendors are lined up and so are eating places. In supermarkets the choice per item category is growing. Having a choice is certainly good for the customer.
Is your business the customers’ choice? Do the customers keep coming back and do they bring others with them? Why do they come back? Every business leader needs to have answers to these important questions. Businesses that are the customers’ choice meet customers’ needs and expectations consistently. They care a little more about their customers and it shows in the quality of their products and services. They respect their customers; make them feel important, appreciated and wanted. They have established a strong relationship with their customers. Despite the fact that their customers have a choice to g elsewhere, they choose to stay on. They become loyalist and brand advocates, though they make a different choice once in a while they always come back. On the other hand, to know that customers endure your business because they have no other choice is tragic.
Unfortunately though, many businesses are yet to appreciate the fact that their customers have a choice. Many are content with a single transaction while others seem to be sending their customers right into the hands of their competitors. For example when products run out of the supermarket shelves it gives the customers an opportunity to try out alternatives. When a petrol station has no fuel or a hospital has long wait times or when eat out places have inadequate parking space it becomes an opportunity for their customers to try out other places and some may never come back.
Every person in an organization must be aware that their customers have a right to get their products or services from elsewhere. They have a choice in most cases! It thus becomes everybody’s responsibility to aim to hold on to the customers.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy