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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Shahid Nizami

Singapore SMEs must focus on growing better instead of faster

BY SHAHID NIZAMI

You have a strong product, a great team, and a 5-year business plan at hand – so what’s missing? The answer is simple: it’s not about what you sell, but how you sell.

In a region with a highly competitive ecosystem of ambitious, growing businesses, it is understandably tempting for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore to prioritise fast growth. Recognising the challenges that SMEs face, the Singapore government has reinforced its commitment at this year’s Budget to helping businesses transform digitally namely through subsidies offered for technology initiatives.

However, Singapore businesses that are looking for long term success must think beyond just financing and technology. This desire to achieve the fastest growth in the shortest time possible is hurting the customer experience as decisions are made at the customer’s expense.

Businesses must recognise that growth at the expense of the customer experience is not growth at all. It’s debt. In fact, an in-depth understanding of the customer in each potential market is what is truly needed. A business needs to be customer-obsessed, not self-obsessed.

Growth isn’t everything
Focusing on rapid growth at any cost is likely to result in a business failing to reach true scale. Long-term success is much more likely to be achieved when businesses grow with a conscience, and prioritise ‘doing the right thing’ by their customers, even when it’s hard. It’s about not just growing fast, but growing better, with the customer experience at the heart of every decision.

However, businesses often fail because they prioritise growing fast over growing better. Much of this boils down to their attitude towards how they grow, and whether they take a customer-obsessed vs. self-obsessed approach.

Grab – which implemented price hikes and adjustments shortly following its merger with Uber in the region – had a less-than-ideal impact on its customers' experience and quickly fell from grace in the minds of consumers. Examples like this can prove to be costly, and in the long run, turn out to be detrimental to consumer trust, and consequently, the likelihood that your customers will advocate for your brand in future.

Data from PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series found that globally, consumers are more loyal to companies that offer a better experience, and spend up to 16 percent more on products and services. Compromising on customer experience means missing out on the opportunity for your customers to become your most powerful marketing channel, and that’s a mistake no company should be willing to make.

Recommendations make or break a business
Customers today are more independent, less patient, and less trusting of businesses. They share their dissatisfaction widely and loudly, and they have a wide variety of options to choose from before showing loyalty to a brand.

8 out of 10 (83%) of respondents said they trust recommendations from family and friends more than any other form of advertising, according to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report. This means that even if a business does everything right, one customer’s bad experience with a brand could make it harder to acquire new business in future. In fact, customers are three times more likely to talk about a bad experience with a brand than a good one.

The devil is in the data
So how can you achieve sustainable growth? There’s an untapped growth opportunity hiding in plain sight: your customers. Businesses that collect and analyse customer feedback can not only identify red flags and intervene to prevent poor experiences, but can also engage with happy customers to build loyalty. Contrary to popular belief, getting started with measuring customer satisfaction doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

One of the most commonly used metrics for measuring customer satisfaction is Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a typical benchmark used to evaluate how likely your customers are to recommend you to a friend.

Whilst simple, it provides invaluable insights on what customers value, and where companies should concentrate efforts to improve customer experience. Measuring customer satisfaction also allows you to easily identify unhappy customers so you can make things better for them, as well as providing insight into opportunities for boosting loyalty and retention amongst your customer base.

Customer retention, and focusing on providing a remarkable customer experience, is what separates the leaders from laggards. You can spend large sums of money to acquire customers, but if they don’t stick around for very long, it becomes detrimental to a business’ unit economics.

Ultimately, aggressive, untimely, or poorly managed growth can hurt your business and even lead to its failure. Business leaders must shift focus to the customer by measuring satisfaction and analysing data to address customer pain points. In a world where superior customer experience is often a defining competitive advantage, businesses wanting to succeed must prioritise providing a best-in-class customer experience if they want to grow better. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Shahid Nizami

Shahid Nizami

Shahid Nizami is the Managing Director for Asia Pacific at HubSpot. Based in the company’s APAC HQ in Singapore, Shahid is responsible for HubSpot’s performance across Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and India, and will be based in HubSpot’s Singapore office, working closely with the teams based in both Singapore and Sydney.

Before joining HubSpot, Shahid led the Account Management business for Google Cloud in APAC where he managed a team spread across six different locations, achieving unparalleled results. Before Google, he held several leadership positions at Oracle and has developed a remarkably deep understanding of the APAC market.

Shahid is particularly passionate about HubSpot’s culture. The company’s renowned Culture Code was a huge influence in his decision to join the company, and his personal mission as Managing Director in APAC is to make HubSpot the best place to work in the region.

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