“Small businesses are unprofessional and therefore cannot give customers the excellent service/product they need.” This is an extremely negative perception commonly held by… small business owners. Small businesses, these owners think, struggle to compete against larger companies, who have all the systems, procedures, and budgets in place to ensure top-quality products and services can be provided to customers at a low price.
I believe, however, that business owners trapped in this way of thinking are doing themselves a disservice. While big companies are at an advantage in terms of economies of scale and the size of their marketing budgets, small companies should not use this as an excuse to provide less-than-excellent service to their customers.
Dr Louise van Scheers from the UNISA School of Business Management published a research paper in 2011 that found that a lack of marketing skills has a serious negative impact on the survival rate of small businesses. In that paper, she recommended that business owners regularly ask themselves the following questions:
- Is the company doing everything it can to be customer-orientated?
- Do employees make sure that customers’ needs are truly satisfied, leaving them with the feeling that they would want to come back?
- Is it easy for customers to find what they want and at a competitive price?
These three questions provide a good guide to providing a customer experience that is truly excellent. It is important to note that price forms only one part of one of these questions – and the requirement is that it be ‘competitive’, not ‘the lowest’.
The sustainability and competitiveness of a small business is in many ways dependent on the business being able to identify and satisfy its customer’s needs at a profit. Satisfying a customer’s needs in the most professional way possible, and aiming to exceed expectations, is one way that small business owners can differentiate themselves from their competition – both big and small.
An entrepreneur must ensure that customers experience excellence in every dealing they have with his or her company. As the company develops an identity as a pocket of excellence, it will be able to attract more customers. In this way, excellence is a driver for growth.
Entrepreneurs need to be aware, however, that to support this growth, the excellence they achieve in their businesses must be able to scale. In other words, the quest for excellence must become systematically ingrained in a company’s culture, processes, and systems.
But before they can establish their companies as providers of excellence, small business owners must first break out of the mindset that ‘small company = second rate’. This is a myth that needs serious busting!
Reference: Van Scheers L (2011). ‘SMEs’ marketing skills challenges in South Africa’ in African Journal of Business Management Vol.5 (13) pp. 5048-5056. Accessed online February 2013.