How should SMMEs operate with mature procurement functions?


big-fish-small-fish.jpgHope Factory business mentor Busi Raphekwane shares some crucial guidelines for SMMEs interacting with procurement, in this month’s SmartProcurement. This is pertinent information for procurement and supply chain functions to share with their SMME suppliers.

As an SMME interacting with procurement departments, there are certain expectations that need to be met. The key is to understand what those expectations are in order to serve those companies well and to ensure that all the functions of your business exist to support the customer.

Fact: Customers are the heart of every business. Without customers there cannot be sales and without sales you have no business. Therefore, all the functions in the business (human resources, finance, marketing, etc.) exist to keep the heart of the business pumping – the customer. Understanding what the customer really wants and what will keep them coming to your business, will keep you sustainable in the long run.

Busi.jpgThere are a number of important questions that each business needs to ask to ensure that they have pleased customers:

1. Do you know what your customers expect of you?
Knowing and understanding customer needs is at the centre of every successful business. Therefore, make it a priority to gain an understanding of what your customers expect from you. Speak to your core customers to find out what satisfies them, what makes them happy about your service and what they would like you to improve on. The only way to please your customers and meet their needs is if you understand what they want. When a customer is placing an order, take the time to ask them questions regarding their expectations.

2. Do you know the standard of service you would like to achieve?
Draft service level goals and share them with everyone in your business. Your people need to understand the standard of service that your customers expect, especially those that are in direct contact with your customers. When drafting these goals, you should also look at how enquiries are handled.

3. Do you have adequate systems and processes to support your operations?
It is important to have a policy in place, which details all the processes in your business from the time a customer places an order to the time that you deliver the final product. These processes need to be documented so that anyone in the business can understand them. The great benefit is that your staff will be able to handle challenging enquiries even when you, as the owner or manager are away from the business.

4. Do your customers experience the same service every time they interact with your business?
Consistency is such an important part of gaining customer confidence. You can have a spectacular product or service, but if your customers do not receive the same experience every time they buy from you, they will lose trust in your business. Customer loyalty is built on relationship, trust and consistency.

5. Do you have a communication strategy relating to your customers?
A good communication plan is necessary to ensure that you maintain a good relationship with your customers. Proper planning will enable you to communicate all key information necessary for the customer: the progress, delays, delivery dates, etc.

Whether you are offering a product/service to a corporate or to another SMME; you must offer it consistently, says Raphekwane. Whether the service is for a big or small client is irrelevant; the focus must be on ensuring that you know exactly what your customers need and what makes them happy. When you spend time gathering information about your customers; who they are, what they buy, why they buy and why they will buy from you; you will understand what makes the heart of your business pump and this will result in ongoing growth and success.

For more information on small business support and enterprise development contact The Hope Factory.

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