With the market becoming more and more competitive, Moroccan SMEs have even more difficulty positioning themselves in the local market. Only a handful can be considered successful, partly because they listened to their customers and were better able to answer to their needs. After all, customers’ expectations change over time, and a business that takes their customers’ loyalty for granted without trying to rise above the competition is doomed to fail.
The customer is king is what Moroccans like to say when they feel frustrated, ignored, or their questions go unanswered. “This persistent annoyance is because too many local companies neglect the importance of customer service, believing that it relies on intuition. So, they collect very little data to help with decision-making,” says Mehdi Mansour, Country Operations Director at Carrefour Market Morocco. “This negligence represents a trap that intelligent competitors use to their advantage, which explains why there are so many foreign companies and entrepreneurs opening up branches or establishing themselves in Morocco,” he continues.
With that in mind, the Moroccan consumer mindset is slowly changing. Social networks have contributed greatly to this awareness. “Today, many customers are starting to consider a company’s customer service performance as a primary criterion, even before proceeding with the purchase,” explains Khalid Baddou, President of the Moroccan Association for Marketing and Communication.
So, why do so many Moroccan companies fail at customer relations? Here are a few probable causes.
1. The business is started for the wrong reasons Too many entrepreneurs start a business to make money. They dream about getting rich. Very few believe that their business is truly there to meet a need and satisfy existing or potential customers. The essence of any business should be the customer. Making money is the result of both a good marketing policy around a product or service and a good customer service that makes the customer want to come back.
2. A lack of awareness Schools teach the technical aspects, sure, but they often do not focus on the importance of the client and customer service. The aim of graduates who later become employees is solely to obey their bosses, who in turn run after the money without keeping customer needs in mind. For instance, a sales agent will target a quick sale at the expense of recurring sales over the long run. When making a quick buck causes the loss of a customer, the salesman laughs it off and proudly thinks he has done his job. This is something quite common in Morocco where employees seem to be annoyed by the customer’s legitimate line of questioning. The customer often has to resort to getting the employee’s sympathy to get any business done. Entrepreneurs should keep the customer in mind in all aspects of their businesses.
3. A lack of customer service training SMEs tend to offer very little employee training, leaving employees to figure out on their own how to deal with clients. It can be a hit-or-miss situation. Entrepreneurs put the stake of their businesses in the hands of people who are the face of the company, but they have no specific protocol to follow or procedure to go through. Sadly, even large companies lag behind when it comes to training. Often banks will give away leaflets at their branches, the teller is unable to answer any questions saying they were not trained in that specific product or service. There’s no written process, answers to specific questions will differ depending on who you ask. And sometimes it depends on the time of the day at which the question is asked or whether the employee happens to be in a good mood.
4. A lack of evaluation Often companies have a strong grip on the product or service being offered, yet they do not invest enough to measure current customer satisfaction. This represents a significant shortfall on repeat business and improved products or services for potential customers. Surveys and focus groups are just two of the things that should be implemented to collect data, which should then be analyzed to make an educated determination and take corrective action to improve customer satisfaction.
5. Inefficiency of the systems (if one even exists) Very few SMEs have systems to collect and analyze customer satisfaction data. Most consider it a waste of time and money. Those who do have systems in place are rarely effective. In fact, these businesses tend to resolve problems on a case-by-case basis without ever directly addressing the source of problems. Unless it is addressed as a science, customer satisfaction surveys, analyses and projections amount to amateurism with a high degree of uncertainty.
6. No apparent knowledge of what competitors are offering SMEs should be aware of what their competitors do- then commit to offering even better products and services to their own customers. It is important to always be one step ahead or else you’ll be out of the game quickly. Morocco is no exception to the rule. Customers today have more choice than ever and can quickly and easily move on to other vendors.
7. No vision A lack of foresight of what is to come. Although one cannot predict tomorrow’s trends, keeping your ear to the ground will give you insights as to what the market will expect. “It is important to note that this does not require sophisticated tools on the VSE/SME’s part. It is often necessary to plan clear patterns to successfully satisfy the customer,” adds Baddou. Even though it is not an SME, education would be a good example. Vision drives business. It cannot be the other way around, as hard as some try. You cannot drive a boat by only looking at the next wave. You have to know where you’re heading. Otherwise, you will simply end up where the winds take you, regardless of whether that is the intended destination.
8. A lack of loyalty programs Clients need to feel appreciated to have a reason to come back. When there is no loyalty program, customers do not feel they are a part of the business and have no particular reason to be grateful. Simple techniques, such as coupons, collecting points, discounts or free prizes, can do wonders and make the client’s experience more enjoyable and memorable. Customer service also involves setting up systems that maximize customer satisfaction with the company. It must be a primary consideration for every business. Sales and profitability depend on the ability to satisfy customers.
“Today there are solutions on the market that are easy to set up (on the cloud), multichannel (available on or offline) and portable (on a smartphone, in the car, etc.) Once the company recognizes the importance of committing to a customer service approach, the technology can then parameterize existing solutions according to the company’s needs and budget,” explains Baddou.
Mansour, on the other hand, insists on the importance of having a team whose members believe in serving their clients. During the job interview, he suggests, the employer should ask candidates: “Why are you applying for a customer service position?” “The answers may be surprising, but if the candidate doesn’t answer the question properly, he/she is definitely not someone to hire,” he says. In other words, every person in the company, no matter what their job title or duties are, should be aware that the main purpose of their job is to serve customers and that is the main raison d’être of the business. At the end of the day, Moroccan SMEs need to remember is that good customer service keeps customers coming back- and bad customer service will definitely keep customers away.