Starting and running a business is a multi-faceted endeavour. There is a lot that has to be looked at and into to succeed. In the field of entrepreneurship, one of the most topical issues is that of business ethics. A few days back I was discussing with some people about the age-old adage, “the customer is king” or the one that says, “the customer is always right”. Trust me those statements are highly contentious. One interesting dynamic to them is that they are silent on what is expected of the customer (toward say, a business employee). Anyways, that is an interesting discussion for another day. I only mentioned them because the customer is one of the, if not the main centre of attention regarding good or bad business practices.

Bad Business Practices

“Inbox For Price”

If you are active on social media then you probably have come across this. This has become a common business practise where someone posts products or services they are selling and then say, “inbox for price”. I have also seen a related practice where a business or company posts something about a product or service and then someone ask about the price. I have numerous times seen the business or company responding by “check your inbox”. Seriously what does one lose by clearly availing the prices for everyone to see? After all, you are displaying your products or services for people to buy.

This is a bad business practice that must be stopped by entrepreneurs. I have noticed that prospective customers get put off by such. You can lose customers by doing something that is very unnecessary. I bet you if you ask most people why they say “inbox for price” the reasons you get might astound you. I do know one of the reasons and it has to do with the next point I am getting into.

Unreasonable Pricing

Zimbabwe’s economy is ailing, that is given; we cannot dispute that. It is, however, not an excuse to price goods or services unreasonably. Most entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe think the best business approach is to charge ridiculously high prices to make a quick buck. You find businesses charging double, thrice, or even more than the actual prices. This is a very bad business practice because it simply shows that, as a business, all you care about is your bottom line. A business that exhibits such conduct is not concerned with the fact that customers are human beings with real challenges, especially in an economy like ours. The “inbox for price” strategy is usually used to pounce on some unsuspecting customers by charging them more – that is one of the reasons.

Selective Treatment Of Customers

The bases for selective treatment are many. Some are racial – ever noticed how businesses still treat white customers differently from black ones. I do not want to start a debate on race here but that selective treatment is grossly unacceptable. The other common basis is that of looking at how much a customer spends at your business. The natural tendency is that customers who buy more are treated more favourably than those who do not. Logically this seems OK but it is not because how you treat customers should be standard and uniform. This does not negate the fact that there are courtesies that might be extended to bulk customers. Regardless, it must not be apparent that you selectively treat customers – it is a bad business practice. I can also add that the same goes for employees too; try to be impartial in how you treat them.

Good Business Practices

Omni-Channel Communication Framework

A business must cultivate open communication with its customers. Even better business must have several communication platforms through which customers can communicate with it. This is to ensure any customer that wants to get in touch with can at any given point. For instance, it would be unfair to have Facebook and WhatsApp platforms only for communication purposes. What of those who probably can only communicate using SMSes? You see, that is why there must be several platforms available for customers. Additionally, businesses must be big on two-way communication with their customers. Prompt and comprehensive responding to customer messages or calls is highly important also.

Employee Development And Capacity Building

How a business packages and delivers value is hugely a function of the team behind the business. It is has been demonstrated several times that businesses that invest in their human resources thrive more. Employees get to be adequately equipped plus they also have high morale due to the sense of worth they get. Here is the thing, when employees are trained they feel valued and that ultimately boosts productivity. The result is that customers get great value due to a highly motivated team behind the product(s) or service(s).

Respect And Courtesy

When interacting with customers, businesses should express genuine, utmost and consistent respect and kindness. Not only is this expected as a good standard business practice but it is central to customer retention. Like I always say, customers should not be treated as mere money dispensers – they are first of all, human. Thus being sensitive to their emotions is key – being respectful and courteous towards them is a good business practice.

In closing let talk about something I repeatedly see being done by most businesses. I get it that you want to please your customers or prospective customers but do not lie. I am referring to lying about your products or services just so you can get them to make a purchase. I am also referring to make false promises about things like deliveries, queries, and the like. Be known as a business of integrity – mean what you say and say what you mean. Lying sets bad precedence that ends up in people failing to trust your business’ capacity to deliver wholesome service. Be a good example by cultivating good practices, eliminating the bad.