It takes no more than a few conversations across Hermanus to pick up on a business dynamic that does not bode well for the economic state in which we all find ourselves.
There is so much dissatisfaction between service providers and consumers that an inquisitive, analytical mind like mine has to look deeper into what the problem is, and what can be done to rectify the status quo.
At the outset, it is critical to state that – while we are all feeling the pinch in what is a protracted, economically-tight, and politically-tainted period – one would think all business people would be doing their utmost to win business and, in turn, provide a quality service that would be the basis of future referrals. One of the basic principles of good business is that you leverage previous successes to promote your business and capability. Yet, and this is a generalisation, the problem seems to start at the outset.
We, and many people we know, have been the recipients of numerous quotes from a range of service providers, who have been either recommended by people who had a positive experience, or whose marketing approach was so highly visible that they were asked to supply a quote. The most eye-opening dynamic from a business perspective is that, in almost all cases, quotes are provided and never followed up on, by the service provider.
There is almost no attempt to clarify the client’s actual need and, in doing so, getting closer to winning the business; no suggestions or recommendations, based on their experience to assist the potential client in their decision making; and very little sign that they are even interested in putting in an effort. In a market where there is a complete oversupply of certain services (landscapers, irrigation, building and renovation contractors, cleaning and laundry services – the list is endless), the least a consumer should expect is a pro-active, advisory approach. And this would secure the business against so much competition.
Yet it is these same service providers, who are constantly building the gripe ladder about how tough business is and that they are suffering for a whole lot of reasons that are text-book examples, and not necessarily applicable in a town with dynamics like ours. Business is tough for everyone here, with very few exceptions, so surely one should pull out all the stops to try and edge out the competition.
On the other side of the fence is the consumer who often takes the approach that the cheapest solution is the one to go for, and any differential in quality of product and service that a service provider could provide is not worth the paper those statements are written on. Recommendations are often requested on the likes of Facebook, and the inevitable statement follows: “Mustn’t cost an arm and a leg” or “Mustn’t break the bank”, yet the consumer has an expectation of a service and end-product quality that far exceeds the realms of reality, considering how few people want to pay for a service that, in some instances, is an expert service backed by plenty of knowledge and experience.
Make no mistake, there are some exceptional service providers here, with well-deserved track records as they provide a level of service that one is prepared to pay proportionately more for, to ensure the end result doesn’t require someone else to fix it. The number of instances of “re-work” that we have witnessed at both clients’ builds and our own, leaves one with a desire to find a punch bag to let loose on, just to find an outlet for the frustration of seeing basic business principles thrown out the window. I have often used the Afrikaans adage: “Goedkoop is duurkoop”, or its English derivative: “You get what you pay for”, and I have yet to see that proven wrong in the medium-to-long term.
Another aspect of service provision, which is a whole different conversation, is the impact of bad or slow service delivery, particularly in a multiple-project situation such as a new build or major renovation. Our recent experience in that regard is a clear message to all suppliers out there – if your piece of the operation is integral to other contractors meeting their deadlines, make sure you meet yours to ensure you are not left with a bad reputation among your customers and other contractors. While you cannot measure the impact of that, do not be surprised if business slacks off after a few bad hits at doing what you were contracted to, in the stated timeline.
So where does the happy medium lie? Do we all continue to moan and whinge on both sides of the fence about the tough business climate, bad service experience and costs involved, or do we find a way to go the extra mile and make a concerted effort to win business and reputation – and provide a quality end result to the consumer’s satisfaction?