There’s something that most small businesses and entrepreneurs are experiencing in growing numbers these days. They don’t recognise it as an illness; it is usually diagnosed as the regular frustrations that come with owning a business in Nigeria. I first identified this syndrome when I started training SMEs on customer experience in 2019. It was by the time I got to my 4th client or so that I discovered the trend. I’ll share some of the symptoms now.
Heart Palpitations at the mention of an unhappy customer.
Unknowingly detesting a customer coming back for clarity on a purchase or a post-purchase error.
Describing customers who are specific about their needs as stressful.
Expecting a customer to ‘get it’ because you have worked hard on ensuring that your processes are clear.
Getting upset at customers for not participating in a giveaway or promo.
Regarding customers with negative feedback as “haters” or “sent by village people”.
Being openly derogatory about customers in front of staff.
This ailment is also characterised by statements like these
I have given them everything I would want from a business if I was a customer.
The customer is complaining about the price, they are broke.
Why can’t people just buy and go? Why do they have to return with their wahala.
Is it not the lady with the long hair, she’s very stubborn I know her very well. Don’t listen to her.
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Essentially, what has happened here is that small businesses invest a lot in market research, information gathering and sourcing of the finest raw materials and staff. All these to please one person. The customer. They start off with the most noble of intentions; to serve their customers well. But unfortunately and this is regardless of the amount of research and feasibility studies, you will come in contact with people who will either not like your product, expect more (or less) or just not love the idea or think they have a better one. There will also be customers who love it but might need a little extra help than you bargain for.
These situation-based difficulties are unfortunately not foreseen ahead of time, and the entrepreneur who has done all this work starts to develop resentment for the customer. The euphoria of a credit alert starts to wane. Feedback is not being taken, and the business starts to suffer.
The advice I give my clients vary depending on the severity of the syndrome that I diagnose. However these tips should work in enabling perspective and understanding on the seller’s part.
Value is what your customer says it is. You are not your customer. Gather feedback when you can. Use that feedback to determine what they want and then merge that with your own ideas and budget and come up with an offering that is at least in the same ball park as your customers have indicated
Resist the urge to speak negatively about your customers in front of your team. This one is hard. Sometimes even I am guilty of this. Service culture is from the top. A leader who doesn’t prioritise service will not have team members who do.
Finally, some customers will have more questions than others. Some will even have no questions at all and will make you believe they are easier customers. Having questions or objections doesn’t make for a difficult customer. Some people will need that extra attention. And it is your job to provide it.
DO any of the signs of Customer Resentment Syndrome (CRS) speak to you as a person? Don’t feel bad, 80% of entrepreneurs especially in Nigeria. But it is curable with a little more patience and a whole lot of engagement with your customers.
Oluchi Okafor is a customer experience consultant and has trained and consulted for over 100 SMEs on how to improve their processes, retain happier customers and deliver great experiences every time. She is also the Managing Director at Multimix Academy, Nigeria’s foremost supply chain management institute.