One of your responsibilities as a business owner is to focus and check on the quality of the products yourself before delivery. The simple assumption is that quality sells and customers will come back for more. Poor quality leads to disappointment and customers will stay away. Let us examine some aspects of delivering quality a bit closer.
As a business owner you are responsible for delivering quality goods and services. So do you have the knowledge and the skills to operate in the sector you have chosen? Did you take the effort to be trained in the specifics of your business, the operations of the equipment and machines, and their maintenance? Do you know what to do in case things go wrong?
I know of examples, whereby investors recognised the opportunities in a specific sector and bought the equipment to manufacture the goods. However, factors related to the different altitude, temperatures, humidity, availability of raw materials, etc., caused the equipment not to function optimally. As a result the machines are now standing idle. My advice is: acquaint yourself well enough to operate the business. Alternatively, hire experts to support you here and have your workshop staff trained. When you buy equipment from abroad, it is not uncommon that the supplying factory may be able to send a technician to help you install the equipment and train your staff to operate it. It will benefit you in the future to negotiate for such services while buying equipment and machineries. This way, your guarantee will probably remain valid, while maintenance and problem shooting is supported. Mind you, quality is particularly important in case of exporting. The standards of many products have been defined internationally and sub standards will be rejected. And only you are responsible in the end.
You need to be consistent as well. I have observed many times that a new restaurant is very popular for a number of weeks, after which there is a sudden decline in attendance. Why is this so? The usual answer is that the quality and service have gone down. Why not maintain and improve on the service all the time and offer new choices on the menu? People get exited by variety not by routine. Keep up the standard and consistently seek for ways to improve. Customers will come back to check out what is new.
Now, in the absence of sufficient vocational training, many companies face problems getting it right and in the end accept the mediocre level of quality for what it is. The construction sector is particularly prone to this. I have seen few houses and buildings that are finished well. Walls and floors are not straight or level, staircases uneven, not to mention the way water pipes and electricity are installed. Why are we accepting this? Why are we not demanding a higher standard? Why not have workers trained? It will save a lot of money and frustration if sections don’t have to be broken down and done again. The construction sector is only one example. In most sectors we find products that are sub standard and customers may prefer imported goods as a result. I have seen wooden cupboards being made for instance, which look nice in the front but are held together by all kinds of small bits and pieces at the back. Try the drawers and you’ll know it won’t slide properly after you have filled them with your cutlery.
Then, ask yourself do your sales persons know enough about the products to be able to answer your customers’ queries? Beware, some customers may know already quite a bit about the products you sell and your staff needs to be able to discuss deeper insights with them. Many business owners prefer to keep product information to themselves but my advice is to have your sales staff informed as much as possible about your products, the production process, the quality in relation to other brands etc. All too often I have relatively simple questions, which sales persons are not able to answer. As a result I move on the next shop. Again training is important here, also in communication skills.
Customers are often tempted to go for the cheaper option or to bargain for the last possible price. I have learnt though that going for the cheaper option often makes me have to go back and do it again or that I have to buy another brand after all. Consumers will always look for a good deal and that is a smart habit. However, good and cheap don’t always go together. Customers will do well to inform themselves about the products and services they are buying, compare prices and quality to get the best value for their money. Quality that lasts may be expensive in the short run, but cheaper in the end.
There is also the other side of the coin. Do we appreciate what it takes to manufacture quality goods in Ethiopia? It is not easy, when you have to compete with all kinds of cheaper, sometimes low quality imported products. If we seriously want our local manufacturers to develop and grow in this era of globalization, they need support. Countries like China and South Africa have been closed economies for many years and during those years developed their own manufacturing industries. Now they are leading exporters of many products and services. Ghandi successfully made India manufacture its own products as well as he banned imported goods. In the same spirit we could invest in our local producers, paying fair prices, so they can maintain and improve their quality. Also, here we can look for a win-win situation for both parties: a fair price for good quality. With the Ethiopian population growing at a very fast pace, we will need jobs for millions. Successful companies will be able to create employment for the future generation. Sadly though, there are examples of factories that are not doing well because they cannot compete with the cheaper imports. Let us buy from the local producers, we need them.