Imagine a situation- a common person based in Jamnagar, Kota, or for that matter anywhere in the country is highly disappointed with one of the largest infrastructure companies and decides to express his view on social media. It could be for the delay in completing a critical bridge that was meant to bring significant convenience to people or for the poor quality of the dam constructed which has added a new problem or simply has an opinion on how a certain hydropower project is operating. What impact will one or two such comments followed by say 20 more responses will have on the overall business of that company? Nothing significant.
Now think of the same person expressing frustrations about his or her experience at a restaurant, salon, fitness center, petrol pump outlet or supermarket in their town. A simple crib tweet, Instapost, or a message in a personal WhatsApp group has the potential to become viral at the micro-market level. This could in turn even influence mass behavior impacting business outcomes for that brand. I observed this first hand last October when one of my friends had a bad experience at a popular beauty salon. After a certain beauty treatment, she got rashes all over her body. She believed it was due to poor product quality used by the salon. Her one post on our Instagram local community group resulted in multiple bad comments about that particular outlet resulting in people choosing to boycott its services. Soon after this, the outlet lost its franchise license too, and eventually shut shop!
While large-scale companies working on mega projects of national significance may be able to shrug off customer or user ire, small businesses with a focus on local or hyper-local markets do not have such a choice. For building a loyal customer base and business growth, such companies need to invest in little things that matter.
Here is my list of the top three little things that make a BIG difference:
Giving Great Experience
Studies in brain activation led by magnetic resonance imaging show that our brains light up more when we hear our own names as compared to others’ names. Clearly, people’s sense of self-worth is quite high, even subconsciously. Similarly, even in customers’ transactions with businesses, what attracts them is the kind of treatment they get.
The case of a local, private bus service app ‘CityFlo’ comes to my mind that is often mentioned by my colleagues. CityFlo is admired for its exceptional service, on-time schedule and proactive approach. Before a holiday, the app usually conducts a simple poll, asking each rider whether they will be traveling on the holiday. It then tailors its bus schedules accordingly and notifies the riders. Even during the lockdown, the app stayed in touch with its users through regular communication. After 10% of private offices restarted in Mumbai, the app even outlined safety guidelines for commuters and was swift to start its services. Focusing on such aspects that put customers first is what leads to loyalty in the long run.
Getting the Core Right
While impeccable experience is a must-have, getting the core of your business right is highly critical. A restaurant ‘Mirchi & Mime’ opened near my home a few years back. The establishment employs specially-abled people, which is truly commendable. A customer might visit it the first time out of curiosity, a second time out of empathy but he or she will not go there the third time if the food is not up to the mark. Whether it is food to a restaurant, fitness equipment/ trainer to a gym, or beauty services to a salon, the core of the business must be strong for customers to have your business in their recall.
Aligning Customer Experience with Employee Gratification
The first business that comes to my mind in this respect is the Taj Hotels, whose employee rewards and gratification system are exceptional. Not only are the rewards aligned with guest experience, but employees are even given due gratification within a few days of receiving good feedback from a guest. This keeps the employee motivation and the sense of belongingness high.
As Richard Branson famously said, “Loyal employees in any company, create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders.” Align your employees’ KRAs and rewards with customer experience captured through systems like the Net Promoter Scores and follow it through diligently. Engaged employees will ensure happy long-term customers yielding positive business outcomes.
Often companies focus on being famous and hence divert energies on loud and large scale promotions before getting the basic rights. This is one of the reasons why so many start-ups or small businesses shut shops quickly.
As the famous Disney song rightly put it – look for the simple, bare necessities! Companies should focus on long-term business sustenance, achieved through diligently focusing on the little things that matter; fame and reputation will follow by default.
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