A study at Harvard University concluded that the most valuable asset that every business has is how it is known to its customers—its reputation.
White House Office of Consumer Affairs reported that nine in 10 dissatisfied customers will not do business with the disappointing company again.
No customer should be taken for granted if business is to survive.
An entrepreneur requires honesty and integrity to win hearts of customers, suppliers, employees and financiers.
This partly explains why no one, according to Lou Gersterner, should be entrusted to lead any business institution except those with impeccable personal integrity.
Early this year, I went to Thyolo Market to buy some groceries. At a certain shop I gathered five items worth about K4 200, but the shopkeeper asked me to pay K5 800.
I politely asked for a calculator and it revealed that I was supposed to pay K4 200. When I confronted him about the source of the ballooned figure, he sheepishly claimed he had accidentally entered prices of two items twice.
A week later, a friend experienced a similar incident in Kasungu. This is how shopkeepers or business owners steal from customers.
But this is not how to grow business.
Cheating is not the only problem with some businesspeople in the country.
Barbershops, salons and other small-scale businesses are often full of people who drop in just to chit-chat.
This scares away regular and would-be customers who are allergic to queues.
Sometimes sellers charge different prices for goods of the same quantity and quality to different buyers.
This is not fair trade. It is discriminatory and daylight robbery with a price.
Even well-off buyers are likely to buy from bigoted sellers who offer same goods and services at the same price.
This is because psychologically people move away from pain and toward pleasure. This is not healthy for the growth of business.
According to Jah Abraham, there are just three ways to grow a business: finding new customers, having your current customers buy more frequently from you and giving current customers more opportunities to increase the purchases they make.
Newcomers can be found through advertising which comes at a cost.
Satisfied customer can also convince with ease and at no cost some people to buy from you.
Dissatisfied customers, on the other hand, are dangerous to the growth and survival of business.
On average, each dissatisfied customer may share his dissatisfaction with at least nine other people who are likely to tell five others.
Without customer care, it is hard to find new customers and to motivate existing customers to buy more.
Barring hard economic times and other factors, many businesspersons striving to be well-known fail to make the grade because they have no financial education.
To become an engineer, you have to study engineering. To become successful, you have to read a lot about success. The same can be repeated for business.
But it is not too late. Government can train these business people on the nuts and bolts of business with emphasis on how to make money, how to use it to bring more money and, most importantly, the value of customer in business.
This can be achieved by way of using agricultural extension workers or system equivalent to that.
Who knows that the future of Malawi is in small businesses. n