When a small business reaches a size where the owner does not really deal with the day-to-day operations of the business, it faces an increasing number of challenges. Everyone knows this; it does not really need to be stressed. However, there is a process that few are addressing, and it will have a significant impact on business success from 2021 onwards. When the general “employee mindset” is introduced into the business, it can automatically start a serious erosion, and a business that has built itself up very nicely from scratch can find itself back at square one very quickly if it is not careful. This has always been an important challenge in business, but perhaps never more so than during the post-pandemic restart.
The power of service
It is often said that even if the product is weak, if you get a high-quality service, you are willing to overlook the weaknesses for quite a long time. We do not need to show how powerful a good word can sometimes be, do we? I am always reminded of an episode of a TV show that illustrates the wonders Americans are capable of in this area. In an episode of Friends, Chandler tries to cancel his membership at all costs, but he just cannot, which the others laugh at. Ross comes to his aid, because it is just a poor excuse that Chandler “just can’t say no to” Maria, the customer relations lady. Together, the two men arrive very firmly at the gym’s reception desk, where they immediately demand the cancellation of Chandler’s membership, whereupon the receptionist immediately calls the “solution lady”. She, of course, is exactly as much of a “treat” as Chandler described, so they leave the gym without having cancelled Chandler’s membership, but instead with a new membership for Ross. Back home, they start to complain about their situation, and they devise a plan: since it is simply impossible to cancel their gym memberships, they cancel their bank accounts from which the membership fees are transferred. Of course, they do not count on there being a “solution lady” at the bank, too. I will not go on with the story, it is certainly not as funny when written down, but it is very instructive. Americans do know something that many other countries do not. And here I mean especially the quality of service. In fact, I would not use the word “service”, but rather “serving”, because even in the trendiest restaurants, it is not uncommon for the employees to want to serve the people who spend money in their restaurant. Of course, in many films, this is taken to the point of humour, but who cares if we can actually enjoy it in real life. Is it simply the American people or the culture itself? I do not know for sure. What I do know is that the motivational system of tipping is perfectly applied based on which the vast majority of a waiter’s income is made up of tips. Who cares what is behind it all if you are happy to spend your money?
That damn crisis
Nobody likes crises. Actually, that is not entirely true, because those who can advance in these difficult situations love them. People who know that a crisis is always an opportunity for people to change habits that have been “stuck in their heads”. 2021 is certainly such a time. Many say that this year will be the “year of service”. Every business should be prepared for this. I can agree with that statement, as the reopening will bring many surprises for different businesses. People will not automatically return to their old habits. At least not in the numbers and to the extent that they left them when the crisis hit. Everyone will have to fight for customers’ favours again. Small businesses are in a particularly difficult position in this battle, and not necessarily because of their capital strength. It is precisely in the hope of receiving a higher level of service that customers choose smaller businesses, since they will not be one of the – perhaps less important or equally important – members of a large crowd. However, if they do not get differential treatment, they will be left with the comparison of capital strength, which the small ones will not benefit from. In 2021, it will be particularly important for small business owners to get rid of the inert attitude that owners label as the “typical employee attitude”.