By Chimpele Tsamwa

Me: “Hello, I need this Superman bookshelf. How much is it going to cost me?”

Friend: “US$120.00 (MK90,000.00) and it’s going to be ready in 3 – 4 days. Give me a deposit and I will make one for you.”

M: “Okay, send me your bank account details so I can pay. I will pay you in full.”

F: “Alright cool.”

This is a real conversation I had with a friend in June, one of the small business operators I know. Fast forward three months later and I’m still using the TV stand as a temporary bookshelf. I won’t go into details into how 3 days turned into (gaaaasp) 90 days but I’ve now come to accept that my living room will never look how I envisioned it to anytime soon.

I’ve had similar experiences in the past and one thing that seems to be a constant is the fact that people rarely communicate with their customers. They somehow expect you to magically know that Ujeni hasn’t been reporting for duties hence the delay. And this is where a lot of businesses get it wrong. They underestimate the power of communication.

“Your order has been delayed? I won’t tell you even way past the delivery date, you will somehow figure it out. Don’t you know that there’s Covid-19? Text me.”

“I found the shoes you wanted but in a different color but I won’t ask if this is okay with you. I will deliver these instead. No, I don’t offer refunds. And besides, purple will look good on you.”

“My spouse went out drinking yesterday and is still not home till now so I don’t feel like talking to anyone. I will deal with you when time is right. Or, let’s have a screaming contest.”

Some big corporations can and do get away with poor customer service and still post millions of dollars in profits. This isn’t the case with most small businesses who are a few lost customers away from closing up shop- YOU NEED my money. Let banks/ chain stores play these games, not you the “taking orders” “DM-for-price“ type of operations. If you want to survive then you need to pull up your game.

Maintaining a sustainable business model requires setting yourself apart from competitors and in an environment where a lot of operators don’t care about customer service it would be easy to excel. If you want to grow as a business then it’s important to understand that good customer service is very crucial.

One such business that knows the value of great customer service is the Lilongwe based firm Doorbell Services. They do grocery shopping and parcel delivery services and if your order is going to be delayed they tell you in advance. When there’s a mix-up they own it and try to rectify it and when they’re not going to be operating that day they issue a notice. Whoever is behind this venture knows what they’re doing.

As a customer, I appreciate effective feedback whether positive or negative. Please don’t leave me wondering if you’re dead – it sucks even more when you’ve already been given a deposit or been paid in full. The fact that we know each other shouldn’t make you treat me less of a customer. You are not doing me a favor – I am paying you. So don’t expect me to ‘understand’ because I will simply take my business somewhere else. There are too many options for me.

I’m open enough to express my dissatisfaction when dealing with people mainly because I want to see them win. And don’t think your friends/ relatives aren’t bashing you behind your back. Do not kid yourself. Negative reviews drive away so many prospects and will make you lose existing customers.

People aren’t jealous of you. You have no haters. Before you begin posting a gazillion passive-aggressive statuses about loyalty, take some time to think why your friends and family aren’t supporting your business.Have you ever considered the fact that despite offering supreme quality products may be the reason why you aren’t growing is that your communication sucks? If you’re a small business operator then please repeat after me: “I WILL IMPROVE ON MY COMMUNICATION.”

I’m kind of bored today, let me text the bookshelf maker so I can laugh at the excuse he’s going to come up with today. That is if I’m lucky to get a response. Hello, blue tick!

Author bio: Chimpele Tsamwa works for as the Master of Lightbulb Moments.

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