Simplicity and convenience are becoming the new black. Traffic considerations mean that we prefer to shop locally, or even better, at the petrol station. (Woolies and Engen! What an inspired combination.) The expensive neighborhood pharmacy is preferable to standing in long queues at the large discount store. We do not switch service providers, even if we are not particularly satisfied, because we dread the red tape.
Our modern world is so technologically advanced with all sorts of labor-saving gadgets, that logically speaking, we should all have too much time on our hands and life should be considerably easier than it was for our grandparents. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Physically we do have an easier life, but our stress levels and the sense of juggling obligations have increased dramatically… just look at the growth in stress medication!
Ask the harassed mom on the school run or the CEO of a large business and the one thing they will have in common is ‘no time’. Feeding into this perception is the complication of everything from buying a phone to going on holiday. We recently chose to cancel a family get-together overseas, because the red tape and ulcers involved in trying to arrange the right papers for my underage niece to travel unaccompanied, simply proved to be too much.
Bureaucrats one, travel agent and family nil.
Small businesses are subject to the same avalanche of compliance and regulation as corporates. It is easy to pass this red tape onto the customer without really thinking about how we can rather reduce the impact. I have recently had to replace my credit and debit cards, both from the same bank. Courier number 1 simply would not accept my certified proof of residence, because “the print was dark”. This is despite the fact that I was standing in the hallway of said address with a valid ID. Speechless, I watched him drive off – with the card.
Courier number 2 arrived half an hour later. He came armed with a digital scanner and two minutes later I had my card. The same bank, two separate courier companies, but a world of difference in how the customer was left feeling. Company Number 2 had realized that banking compliance is non-negotiable but had put a little thought into making the delivery process as painless and as simple as possible.
Adopting the mantra of keeping it stupidly simple (KISS), in all business processes, especially during the sales process, may make everyone’s lives better, especially that of your customers. Uber has done this so well that ‘Uber it’ has become a verb in modern parlance. Their phone app is simple to use, even for the technologically challenged; no cash is involved; it’s quick and no pre-booking is necessary. They have removed the possible barriers to purchase associated with traditional taxis (booking, trying to find one, waiting and handling money) and they have reduced costs to boot. (I don’t wish to get into a debate as to the legal and labor concerns about the Uber model, but rather to highlight how simplification simply makes good business sense.)
Look hard at your business model and your processes. Where and when is what you do company-centric, as opposed to customer-centric? What can you do to make it easy for the customer to do business with you? Online businesses have learned the three click rule: if the customer cannot buy within three clicks then the sale is lost. If there are processes that do not serve the needs of the customer, or worse, irritate the customer, then why continue? If it can be done quicker and easier, ask why not?
Small businesses are well placed to get to know their customers. This knowledge can be leveraged to streamline or adapt to their needs so as to make your product or service the obvious choice.
Keep your business model and processes simple, quick and convenient to help your customer buy.
Author: Janet Askew
Janet is a trainer, coach, speaker and writer who is passionate about promoting women in business and SMME development. In addition to her consulting work, she is a director of Essentially Natural and serves on the board of the Wot-If? Trust.