Strategy A to Z: Customer, Competition and Compliance. Part 1 of 3.

The essentials of Strategy in Business, Employees and the Workplace.

Customer is always right. Most times this is correct and as a service provider, you’re in a worse position when the customer is actually wrong. I specify service provider because in this day and age, you cannot provide a product without providing some sort of service, be it after-sales or prior to the actual transaction. When the needs of a customer are not fulfilled, nothing else matters. With demands becoming more sophisticated and entities tailor-making their products according to market segmentation. More value is needed for less and at times, customers would be willing to pay more just because of the differential experience for a similar product than that with no appropriate service at all. For example, if I buy a cup of coffee at a fastfood restaurant, I might not be assisted with the kind of energy a customer with a full combo meal might get. This is the thinking that staff often resolve to, inclusive of those in the financial sector. A person with a higher disposable income would get more attention and value in comparison to one of less economic stature.

Aside from psychosocial dynamics, this difference in service delivery has been addressed through separating the preferential platforms. Where you find branches in entities differentiated in accordance with net earnings or affordability. Ensuring that resources are channelled appropriately without highlighting the differences in service provision. This resembles the state in which the World Bank reports Botswana’s poverty levels, where income inequality is amongst the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. I state this not to highlight problems or how difficult customers can be, but to note the importance of articulating the needs of your customers. You can have the best products, best marketing strategy and most innovative staff compliment, but if you cannot appropriately identify your customer, all of these can be irrelevant. Identifying your customer enables appropriately articulating their needs, developing the metrics of communicating their needs and addressing them in the most value-adding manner.

With that in mind, Africa is no longer a basket case, one can no longer engage the same strategy in East Africa as with Southern Africa. Similarly between Botswana and South Africa, despite the close proximity and high trade relations. For example, when one looks at the mining sectors of the two countries, Botswana is stable in terms of labour developments and this could be attributed to it not having a history of violence. In comparison, strike-plagued South Africa and its citizens have a history of protest and injustice, this has transitioned from liberation to economic participation at its lowest level; employment conditions. Other differences are the fact that Botswana has a low population and as a result has been successful in managing natural resources, providing basic education for the majority and consciously fostering economic growth in partnership with the business community. Multinational companies need to acknowledge this reality and unfortunately, their local competitors have been just as complacent, which I shall touch on in the next part of this series.

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