Business Irish

Friday 22 November 2019

Third-party mentor can give you realistic feedback on progress


The challenge is, that as the business progresses, customer expectations grow. (Stock image)
The challenge is, that as the business progresses, customer expectations grow. (Stock image)

Feargal Quinn

Q My business has been in operation for five years and is growing at a slow but profitable rate. An investor, who has a small share of the business is critical that we are not moving fast enough. Do you have an opinion?

A The failure rate of new businesses can be staggeringly high. Depending on what statistics you read, in some sectors, it can be as high at 80pc.

The mention of profitability in your question is extremely important.

Many early-stage businesses can't make a profit which eventually contributes to them going out of business.

While I can see where your investor is coming from and recognise that they will be eager to yield a result on their investment, there is a need for balance against creating a sustainable business with a long-term future.

The balance between both opinions probably lies in sitting down and developing very structured projections.

It might be an idea to get a third party like a finance mentor with experience in your sector to sit in on this session who would be able to give an opinion as to what is realistic, or deemed to be missing opportunities and moving too slowly. That will help develop a clearer road map and bring clarity to expectations of both sides.

Both projections should look ahead five years so that there is a longer-term vision and everyone can see the prize at the end of the journey.

Q I have found customer complaints have got increasingly difficult to manage, with customers more demanding and with higher expectation levels for compensation/recompense. How do I manage this?

A This has been a problem for ever.

I can remember some of my managers in Superquinn making exactly the same comment 30 years ago. The challenge is, that as the business progresses, customer expectations grow.

In the first instance, the expectation is that their experience will be trouble-free and without any problems.

In today's environment that is achieved in the majority of cases as most businesses have worked hard to deliver a flawless experience.

Customers have now got so used to that, that when something does go wrong, they tend to react in a very firm way.

We also have to remember that people's lives are far more stressed and busy than ever, and sometimes when this is disrupted with a problem, a customer reaction can be strongly articulated.

I have always believed that part of solving any complaint problem is about getting into the shoes of the consumer and imagining how they might be feeling.

While I acknowledge that sometimes this reaction can be at a higher level than one might normally expect, as a general rule of thumb, if you put yourself in the customer's shoes, you will do very well at solving the issue.

With regard to how you solve the problem, I was listening to a café owner recently telling their staff that "a free cup of coffee is much cheaper than a complaint getting out on social media to another 4,000 perspective customers".

I am sure you are going to say to me that a cup of coffee won't solve it in many instances, which is probably correct, but my message is that any investment is cheaper than an irate customer leaving your premises dissatisfied.

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