Focus on the Customer more than Competitor

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BATANAI KAMUNYARU

Several companies are formed and are operational, but they do not have a clear sense of their target customer. Such organisations resist clarifying their target as they want to appeal to many buyers and they view defining a target as excluding some customers. Some do not even know who their customers are, they just hope that as the day passes their products will be bought – often, they get one or two buyers. With such an attitude towards the target customer, several organisations shift focus to competition rather than the customer. What the competitor does, they also do – they copy everything – even to the extent of snatching the competitors’ employees, hoping to capture the market that the so-called competitor will be servicing.

Even though some regard focusing on the competitor as a business strategy – it is a weaker strategy if you do not know your target market. Copying is never a ‘must-not-do’ but copy to service your target market very well. The greatest inventions in the world are mostly copies of something that was used to service a different target market. If you hope to make your organisation a world-class one, then you must focus more on the customer.  Focus on what the customer is looking for and help them to meet their need – that’s what makes profits for organisations. If you ignore or do not know your customer, it is difficult to build a strong and successful business.

The organisational culture should be that of putting the customer first. With a culture that values the needs and the demands of a customer, the organisation will not struggle to make the profits. Revenues and profits are products of how the customer is satisfied – with a disgruntled customer, the signs revealed in the revenue and profit lines will be negative. Since the key purpose of a business should be to meet customer needs, then the right thing to do should be to make serving the customer pivotal to the organisation. Competition may come but that should not take away the business’s attention and lose the customer. Several businesses lose customers when a new company pops up in the same field because they lose sight of the key thing, the customer, as they concentrate on the activities of the new company.

A business is created to add value in customers’ life and create wealth for the society. Addition of value to customers is therefore the sole thing that every business leader should focus on. If the focus is on serving the customer very well, you will be the market leader, and not waste valuable time in trying to find out what the guy next door is doing. As many believe that competition is good for the consumer, most of the times it is not! As businesses compete, they concentrate on destroying the other and forget the needs of the customer. Sometimes, the competition is harmful to the customer, as the customer is given a substandard product as more effort is put on the ‘competitor’.

What are the priorities of your business? What results are you concentrating on? Business can only survive when it is meeting the demands of the customer. When the business fails to meet the demands of the customer, customers move to the next business that can meet their demands better. It is a satisfied customer who is willing to pay the business for its products and services and become loyal to the organisation – regardless of price sometimes. When customers leave your organisation, never think that they are leaving because of ‘competition’, they will be leaving because you have stopped satisfying their needs and demands. If the business continues to satisfy its customers, there is no need to worry about the next business that is providing similar products and services to you. Customers are fond of businesses that pay attention to their needs and meet them. When their demands are not met, then they look for another who can give them the satisfaction.

Growing profits are a sign that the products and services of the business are preferred by the customer. On the flip side, declining profits are a signal that the products and services of the company might be becoming less effective compared to substitutes and other offerings by other companies. Unbeknown to some business leaders, instead of copying what the other businesses are doing, if you concentrate on servicing your customers well there will never be anything called competition. Customer needs and demands are fickle, therefore, as a business aim to keep pace with the change!

Everything that the company does should start with the customer and be worked backwards – that’s reverse engineering. Find out what the customer wants and work backwards to provide the product or the service that the customer will be demanding – this is how fortunes are made in business. Finding out what the competitor is doing and restructure the business based on the competitor is nothing but diversion from the purpose of the business – which is to serve the customer. When you see many businesses coming up in your field, it is time to engage the customer more and provide the customer demands. If you are customer focused, the energies and resources of the business will be channeled towards providing the customer with a good product, whereas if you are competitor focused the resources and energies of the business will be directed towards destroying the ‘competitor’ – and in the process deprive the customer of good service – eventually losing business.

The customer must be the center of the business, for without the customer there will be no business. Making competition the center of the business will be losing the game. The Oxford Living Dictionary describes competition as, “The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.” In trying to dominate the markets, some businesses even involve unorthodox means, destroying the customer in the end. Business should not be about being better than the next company but providing the best product and service to the customer. Therefore, energies should be directed to engaging the customer always – to keep up to date with their demands and change in needs.

The recording industry once fought the emergence of mp3 players, but they did not win – it is such a thinking to say competition must be destroyed to protect our market. No business owns a customer – but the business that provides the best of products and services retains the customer. Therefore, each business must focus on its purpose. In competition, there must be a winner and a loser, sadly the customer will be the loser. The future is demanding collaboration more than competition in business. Collaboration of businesses will give the customer the best of products – at affordable prices – as production costs will be significantly reduced due to economies of scale.

If businesses are to be run following the model of the Balanced Scorecard by Kaplan and Norton, which is believed to be one of the best models to run businesses, one will note that the competitor should not be of focus. Every business should strive to perfect the four perspectives of the business, and as a business leader you will not have to worry about sales and profit – for it will be a certainty. Profit and revenue are by-products of servicing the customer very well, and the business that puts the customer first will not have to worry about the two. The more you focus on competition, the more you are likely to forget about your own business, and eventually lose the customer that you so wish to serve.

The customer perspective of the Balance Scorecard seeks to make the customer satisfied. How then will the customer be satisfied if attention is given to the ‘competitor’ more than the customer? Bruce Van Horn once said, “Feed the areas of your life you want to grow. Starve the parts that need to go.” By the same token, if you feed the customer well your revenue and profits will grow, but if you feed competition more it will also grow and knock you out of business – just like the mp3 overtook the recording industry. When the customer is satisfied and senses that you care as a business, do not worry about losing them to another for they will not go, and you will not have to worry about your revenue.

Make serving the customer the business’s core mandate, nothing else. As you strive to service the customer well, your processes will have to fall into line, your capacity will also have to fall into line and eventually the financials will fall into line. It is not by mistake that Amazon is the biggest company in the world, with revenues hovering around One Trillion Dollars per annum. They are perfecting the art of serving the customer very well. There are so many business models like Amazon, but they are no match – when you service the customer well, no business will be of match to you. Some people do not even know where Amazon offices are, but they buy their products from around the world and are satisfied by the service!

Make the customer satisfied and make the revenue and the profits!

Batanai Kamunyaru is a business writer, speaker and coach. He can be contacted on bat.kamunyaru@gmail.com or +263 718 852 489.