Business owners across Southern Africa have experienced a traumatic week of unrest and the resultant negative impact on our supply chains. This is made even more difficult to bear when combined with the economic fallout from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As business owners we are all hopeful that the worst is behind us and that the long-awaited vaccination programme continues to gain momentum, as we come together and create green shoots that will translate into positive economic data and job creation.
No doubt, it will take time to build back after so many jobs and businesses were lost. On the upside, Stats SA recently reported that March 2021 was the first month since December 2020 that manufacturing output rose on a year-on-year basis. The last month before that with positive growth was May 2019.
Also encouraging is BankServAfrica’s transaction data that shows that take-home pay for pensioners and workers in the formal sector appears to be reverting to pre-pandemic levels. The BankservAfrica Economic Transactions Index for April, meanwhile, increased by 25.9% year-on-year in real terms, albeit off the base of a weak April 2020.
While many industries are in a bad way, the technology sector is filled with opportunities for businesses that know how to seize the moment. According to Forrester, it is the customer-obsessed organisations, those businesses that put customers at the centre of their leadership, strategy and operations, that are growing revenue and profits, and are engaging employees and retaining customers at more than twice the rate of others.
There are glimmers of hope
At Tarsus Distribution, we are looking at what we have learnt during the pandemic and how we can use those lessons to build a more resilient business, not only for ourselves but more importantly for our channel partners. These lessons have been numerous—including finding ways to tighten our cost base, the benefits of a hybrid working model and the importance of empathic customer service.
It’s this last point I want to focus on. For us and our partners, our customer-centricity is the most important element right now. Customer focus is everything. We advise our reseller partners to ask their SMB customers what they are going to do to become more digital to cope with the future environment, and then work out what we are going to do to help them get there. Essentially, what is your customer’s problem and how can you help them solve for that problem. If you are not helping a customer’s business at that trusted adviser level, you’re likely to be replaced with a B2B e-commerce offering.
For a business to thrive in the age of digital disruption you have to really listen to what your customer wants by gaining a deep understanding of what the problem is and what the customer is trying to solve. When customers talk, share feedback and opinions, and when companies listen intently for opportunities to capitalise on what they learn by taking action, everybody wins.
The technology reseller is at an advantage because so much of what the SMB customers needs to be solved will require the software, products, tools and platforms that are available, along with the solution skills and expertise, from the technology channel.
Yes, COVID-19 will remain a reality for some time to come, and we need to focus on new opportunities and how the tech industry can be helpful in this difficult time. Particularly when it comes to driving the development of SMBs and the mid-market to create employment and help to stimulate and rejuvenate the economy – because with disruption comes opportunity. We are encouraging our resellers to partner with us on our journey to help businesses, across industries. With digital at our disposal, we can help other industries and guide them on the path to digitisation and digital transformation, which is all about reducing costs and creating additional business offerings and opportunities and, ultimately, new revenue streams.
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