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REAP Consulting: Doug Leather

Realising sustainable competitive advantage through customer management

Juliet Pitman

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Doug Leather

Customer management is one of the only real areas of sustainable competitive advantage available to businesses today. That’s according to Doug Leather of REAP Consulting, which specialises in customer management assessment and optimisation. It’s a true enough statement, yet the majority of businesses fail dismally when it comes to making use of the competitive advantage that proper customer management can afford them. “The brutal reality,” says Leather, “is that most organisations have no idea what customer management means. It’s not enabled on any kind of strategic level.”

REAP’s approach to customer management is underpinned by research and methodology that has been used by 740 organisations across multiple industries around the world. Its local clients include Woolworths, Nedbank, Volkswagen, Standard Bank and MTN. REAP looks at customer management across an entire business, with the aim of creating a consistent experience for customers at each and every touch point. Getting this right requires commitment from leadership to the strategic implementation of a customer management plan, something that few organisations have. As Leather says, “If organisations even have a published customer value proposition, it’s been developed by the marketing department with no real cognisance taken of what is important to clients. It’s a series of flowery words that are absolutely meaningless to the customer and their experience of the organisation.” The point is to build loyal customers. “A committed customer is very different to a merely satisfied customer,” Leather adds. This is interesting, considering that most organisations’ customer management efforts focus on customer satisfaction. “A satisfied customer is not committed to your brand – they will still buy an alternative product. But a committed customer selects a brand irrespective of price. They become brand advocates, refer others to your company and tell great stories about your brand.”

He adds that customer satisfaction is only one part of customer management. And because customer satisfaction surveys usually deliver an aggregate satisfaction score across a random sample of customers, they assume that all customers are the same. “They are not,” says Leather emphatically. “Customers are different and segmentation of your customer base is critical.” Looking at different categories allows you to assess loss and retention ratios and implement specific strategies to increase customer spend, commitment and satisfaction in each group. “You need to be able to influence customer behaviour,” says Leather. “You want your customers to be more open and susceptible to your message, to use more of your products and services. To achieve this, you have to build committed customers by creating a unique and consistent customer experience at all touch points. This experience needs to be both physical and emotional – that is what makes people say ‘I want this brand only’,” he explains. Employees are a vital component of this “line of sight” approach from customer influence to customer commitment to customer experience, as Leather defines it. “You cannot be customer-centric if you aren’t employee-centric,” he adds. It’s incumbent on employees to deliver your customer promise but, as Leather points out, apart from an initial training and induction programme, few organisations take the time to engage employees on how to deliver to customers. Employees need to be familiarised with the design and delivery of the customer value proposition – their buy-in is critical to the success of building committed customers. It’s also important to get their input on what the business requires to deliver a consistent customer experience. Employees – especially those who interact daily with customers such as call centre agents – are a power-house of information about where the gaps are, yet so few organisations use this information. “Costly, broad based market research can be greatly enriched by simply listening to what employees have to say,” he says.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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