For any service-related company to stay competitive it must satisfy customer needs. But this is not always an easy task, especially for business member organisations as they have to balance the needs of a diverse membership base and be relevant to everyone.
Whether the firm has existed for many decades or is a start-up, the challenges are more or less the same in most business member organisations. Even Unione Industriale Torino (of Italy), the oldest member organisation formed 108 years ago; still finds it hard to satisfy members given the rapid changing business environment, I learnt on a recent visit to Turin, Italy.
It is common to find groups blaming each other, especially on who is supposed to do something, and at what time.
Though institutions put in place strategies to ease payment of membership fees, members will always want policies that favour them.
Most of the time members are like “Give us money; show us the market and get government off our back then we will pay membership and do business”.
Whereas no one size fits all in these circumstances, most business member organisations depend on membership fees, and thus recruitment of new members and retaining old ones is key for their survival. This is never easy, but ensuring a strong relationship between members and institutions is crucial to soften the seemingly complex relationship.
Investing in research is also essential because it helps the institution to track market and business trends.
However, it is not easy to have a system that will capture every member’s needs or convince them to renew their membership or a contract with the group. Members will always stay when the relationship between them and the institution is good.
Whatever the outcome, members and non-members all benefit from policy reforms brought about by the business member organisations.
That’s why it is important to involve everyone, including trade unions, academia, experts and researchers in efforts geared at improving service delivery and calling for policies change to ensure better service delivery at all time.
What is clear is that institutions must choose what they want to be known for; then promote it while ensuring that the chosen path rhymes with clients’ needs and the country’s growth strategy, as well as available resources.
For instance, exporters need to understand their priorities; this could be the need for product marketing, increasing production or building capacity. This helps in planning for continuous improvement and repackaging of the services and products offered.
Because of the rapidly changing business terrain, firms must always be on the lookout for ways to improve their services or products. Remember, for one to stay on top of their game they must find out what works and what doesn’t for their clientele base.
Today, it is easy to understand your customer needs thanks to the various social media platforms (which any serious company should employ) to engage their clients, even on a one-on-one basis.
This should help firms and organisations smoothen any ‘ruffled feathers’ and find strategies to serve their members or clients better.
The writer is the co-ordinator Rwanda Exportors’ Forum at Private Sector Federation