The survival of any business is largely dependent on its customer base. It thus becomes important for any business owner to strive to nurture and cultivate cordial and strong relationships with his/her customers. This is particularly important as we approach the post-Covi-19 lockdowns where among other things people could emerge as having adopted new behavioural patterns. As a small business owner, you want to be in the forefront identifying ways in which your customers might have transformed. This article attempts to give an overview as to how best you can lead the front in identifying emerging customer needs. With this, you should be able to cultivate strong and mutually beneficial customer relationships.

Know your customers

A business owner should know his/her customers such as to be able to clearly and elaborately define and identify them. Knowing your customers is like solving the bigger part of your business problems, that is, attracting more customers.

As a business owner, you wouldn`t want a situation where you make a product for a low-end customer while it has features best suited for high-end customers. Now, for an economy like Zimbabwe, customers largely fall under two broad categories, that is high-income or low-income earners. We can`t talk of a middle class in our economy therefore every business owner should be aware of this fact.

If your business targets are high-end then you should know that these people are not worried about the price as much as they are worried about the quality and durability of your product. Among other things, these customers also value efforts made in improving the quality of your customer service. Depending on the nature of your business you might want to incorporate after purchase customer support.

On the other end, there are the low-income earners popularly known as ‘the bottom of the pyramid.’ This customer base is price sensitive, I mean, on a normal day they want more for less where their purchasing power is predominantly on the negative. If you can give freebies for any purchase made it will be perceived as the best offer for their money. Your strategy should find ways to achieve this and you will be surprised at the response.

So, if your business targets high-end customers and you hear some customers complaining about your prices, Vusi Thembekwayo says you should know that you are talking to the wrong customer. This, however, does not mean goods/services should be exorbitantly priced, no. Prices should always be reasonably pegged. The same goes for low-income earners and although efforts should be made to ensure the best quality of your products.

Where you would want to improve your product/services together with its pricing, the same customers will be a source of learning for you.

 Adopting a customer-driven development strategy

Bill Gates says, your most unsatisfied customer is your greatest source of learning and as a small business owner, you can use some knowledge from your customers. Of course, you want to ensure that you integrate what your customers say into your business development strategy.

With so many product/service development tools to use, a customer journey map can be useful in this regard. With this journey map, you would want to jot down your understanding of the nature of a typical day for your customer. As you reflect on your ideal customer, incorporate moments where you feel your customer could use your product/service highlighting why you think so. These we call pain points. This should be followed by highlighting the moments of joy where point out how you think your product/service offers relief to your customer(s). Be sure to highlight the qualities in your product responsible for giving your customers the relief. Having completed this, you would have distilled your understanding of how your typical customer(s) relate and interact with your product/service. But in the process of doing this you did not involve the actual customer, remember. It will be necessary then that you set out to contacting your customers to find out from them the things you have been putting on your journey map.

To find out the concerns for your customers will mean that you conduct mini-interviews with them and this you can do over the phone. In these interviews, you try to tap into their emotions while you inquire on their daily routines up to a point where they interact with your products/service.

You will be surprised at the information you will get from this exercise especially when you compare it with what you thought was a typical day for your customers. Some of the information you will get includes your customer`s perception of your product. The most interesting thing is, the same customers will tell you what they want you to improve your product/service. You then must find sustainable means and ways to incorporate the recommendations you got from your customers.

Find ways to surpass your customer expectation

While meeting customer needs might make your products/service popular in the market, what do you think will be the case if you go an extra mile and surpass your customer expectations? When a customer`s expectations are surpassed, you increase your chances of nurturing a loyal customer base and this will spell something positive in your business cashflow.

Low-income customers always want more for less but they crave to own or use products made for high-end customers. Find ways to bring that high-value in your products/services while ensuring that they are within their budgets. High-end customers, on the other hand, predominantly want to be appreciated. For these, you want to go an extra mile in offering them customised customer service. This will depend on the nature of your business and resources available at your disposal but the importance of customer service for high-end customers should be underscored.