The Sunday Mail
Cresencia Marjorie Chiremba
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all”- Michael LeBoeuf
A monopoly – from a marketing angle – is when a supplier of a service or product has exclusive possession of a market.
This means the supplier enjoys no competition, and has the ultimate power to determine the price while in full control over supply.
In others words this type of an organisation is an industry on its own.
When you have competitors in the industry, one way to edge your competitors is through excellent customer service.
Happy customers, both internal and external, always boost sales and profits because once customers are happy with your service they will surely come back for more or even refer some more prospective customers.
On the other hand, is it always the case when a company has no competition? Do they feel it when a few customers decide not to do business with them, or are they obligated to give good customer service?
Monopolies do not need to put an effort to get customers, but surely, they need to treat them fairly and offer competitive products at competitive prices.
Last week after posting my article on levelling up the customer service game in 2022, my friend who works for a large monopoly in Zimbabwe contacted me and we were discussing if their company practices customer service at all, given that it is a sole supplier in their industry.
I was surprised to hear that they do not even consider customer service, and the bad part is that with that kind of attitude they also do exports.
Organisations must know that customer service is an integral part of any business, and no organisation can afford to ignore it and expect to be in business in the near future. This is so true for monopolies that are in business for profit, although many monopolies lack the motivation to offer excellent customer service because they are not concerned about the potential for lost business.
It is sad to note that they fail to see that the world is fast becoming a global village, and with customers now being able to break boundaries through the use of the internet, they can easily buy the same monopolistic service or product in another market at a cheaper price.
Thus, recipients of poor customer service can do something because they now have options to switch to other international markets.
Here in Zimbabwe, customers have always been at the mercy of these monopolies.
They try to post complaints on social media, and in most cases, these fall on deaf ears. Not so long ago I remember there was a petition on increasing the size of meat in one of the pies produced by one of the largest meat producers in the country.
The petition was done but nothing changed, the popular pie is still being sold with a tiny piece of pork in a large crust.
In the short-term, customer service may not be important, but in the long-run these monopolies need to be careful.
Today’s customer is empowered, health conscious and has information at the click of a button.
Any slight mistake by the organisation, and their customers will be busy looking for alternatives to get their power back. Monopolies that offer products that can be substituted must always make sure that they treat their customers well so that they become loyal.
For instance, customers can easily switch from using sugar in their teas and coffees, and use honey or not to put any sweetener at all.
Since there are more manufacturers of substitute products, they usually compete on prices and customer experience. Monopolies, like any other organisation, must strive to protect and maintain their brands.
The public perception of the company and its brand reputation will always stay forever, hence they must always be in good light. I have often heard people saying nothing lasts forever, and I have proved this statement to be true in the business world.
Right here in Zimbabwe, there are companies that used to be giants and monopolies in their own right, but with the markets opening up and new entrants penetrating these spaces their bad reputation blew in their faces and customers switched to the new players.
The tide of change saw some monopolies, notably in telecommunications, steel producing, entertainment, transport, food and processing among others losing it out completely with some folding businesses.
If the driving force of a monopoly is profitability, then it is prudent that they should put more effort in customer service. Regular customer complaints slow down productivity, and may hurt the brand, resulting in negative goodwill.
Thus, even if it is a monopoly it must strive to keep its customers happy and satisfied. In some other markets where customers have a choice, they can easily cross over to competitors, but with monopolies they do not have that liberty. This however, does not give them an excuse not to treat their customers excellently because dissatisfied customers may file appeals to regulators, which may threaten the monopoly status through reprimands.
This is costly, especially if the regulator finds the monopoly guilty and charges it. However, for monopolies operating in markets where there are regulatory bodies, it would be a good move if these bodies include customer service or customer satisfaction in their regulatory controls.
Whenever they do their checks, they can also do customer service audits on these monopolies.
***Cresencia Marjorie Chiremba is a marketing enthusiast with a strong passion for customer service. For comments, suggestions and training, she can be reached on [email protected] or on 0712 979 461