By: Mehran Charania, CEO of Ready Steady Store.
The key to becoming a good leader lies within your own ability to be an effective communicator.
Whether that is within your own team, or with external stakeholders, being able to effectively get your point of view across is a very underrated skill.
With industries now facing more challenges and opportunities than ever in remote-working, COVID and supply chain issues, communication and relationship building have never been important.
Customers are now becoming more switched on and demanding; businesses are having to adapt to this shift which includes how they communicate with the customer.
Suppliers, customers and employees are major business stakeholders which are essential to keep on side.
Don’t manage suppliers but rather work with them in a partnership
In terms of managing suppliers, it’s often better to work with them, not just manage them.
Like any bill or outgoings of a company, it’s vital to always pay your suppliers on time and as per the agreement you set in place. In most circumstances, your suppliers will be businesses of a similar size to you and likely face many of the same barriers to entry and challenges within their own industry.
With COVID having ravaged businesses, these partnerships have perhaps never been more prevalent than over the past 18 months. An example of this at work was during the COVID period when we spoke with a few of our suppliers about accelerating payments to help them through this difficult time.
While business is competitive, business success also relies on good relationships and partnerships.
Key to good customer relationships? – Have a structure in place to communicate with them
Making sure you are able to receive customer feedback effectively is crucial to good customer relationships.
Consumers want to feel listened to and want that access to you when they need it. Every business should pride itself on good customer service and developing relationships with its customers; only with the proper structures in place, can you do that.
Having a strong team dedicated to providing good customer service really is the first step to starting the conversation. SME’s like Ready Steady Store, often take a multi-layered approach from having a customer call centre right back to employees at the company’s head office.
Regardless of who picks up the phone, having someone who is driven to provide the very best customer service for your company is a major win in building good customer relationships.
The customer is getting smarter and more demanding… and why shouldn’t they?
One thing I am starting to see is that the consumer is getting much smarter and keener on communicating his/her feedback to businesses.
Within our own industry, we are now having to find ways to respond to customer queries much quicker and efficiently. This is partially due to the prevalence of the likes of Feefo and Google Reviews, and how important they are to the success and public image of SME’s.
These platforms are seen as a mark of quality and are often a customer’s first port of call when finding out information on a company’s track record of customer service.
Customers are trusting us as businesses to provide the best service to them and it’s important we take this role seriously. Customers are becoming more business-savvy and know the role good customer service and, crucially, communication plays.
Competition shouldn’t be feared but welcomed
I think some business owners see competitors as a threat to the future success of their business.
I could not disagree more.
In my view, competition is a key driver in wanting to better your offering as a business and go above and beyond for your customers. I think we have seen a shift over the past 10 years within the self-storage industry, as it matures. Operators are now more open to exchanging ideas for the better of the industry overall.
From my perspective, if a competitor calls and asks for help, I will certainly help wherever I can and I would argue a lot of other businesses within the self storage space would as well. Although the mood has been relatively positive within the industry, we certainly haven’t taken our eyes off the ball and you shouldn’t either.
While it is good to stay on positive terms with your close competitors, it’s important to stay focused on your business. We, for example, still mystery shop our competitors to make sure that we meet the relevant standards and also to make sure that our services are better than theirs.
It’s part and parcel of running a business and something that many businesses in other industries do as well.
With industries now facing greater challenges than ever in the shape of COVID, labour shortages and resulting inflation, it’s vital that businesses communicate effectively; I truly believe that’s a key characteristic every figurehead should have in their skillset.