Reflecting on the past year, the interactions, relationships and the people, Monique Swart has a few wishes for 2014. 

As a service-driven industry, I think that it’s often easy to lose sight of the basics and I hope that people start really thinking about what matters most when planning their strategies for this year.  Everywhere we go, it seems that cost saving and value adds are discussed ad nauseam and to be frank, I am starting to get really tired of hearing about it.

In my mind, it breeds an unhealthy business environment where the clients focus only on the bottom line and the suppliers focus on tearing themselves into  pieces to offer more, more, more.

There is only so much that you can do to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Yes, you can come up with some great stuff and be excitingly innovative, but who is in the mood to do that when it is difficult to keep the lights on?  Is it worth the resources spent to get more innovative in your value adds if your clients aren’t willing to pay for it and will leave you for a supplier down the road who is marginally cheaper than you?

If that is the case, then are we maybe spending too much time focussing on the ‘big stuff’ and not enough time focussing on some of the basics?  So here is the question.  What more can be done to keep clients happy, build at least a bit of loyalty, and keep your sanity while you are at it?

It’s never good to over-simplify, but sometimes we need to just cut away all the noise and distraction to get to the good stuff.  If we do that, I think that we will hopefully get back to the realisation that relationships make the world go round and if you want to offer true value, you need to really look at your relationships and what you are doing to add warmth to your brand.

I read an article recently where the writer was quoting someone who relayed a story about his family’s cruise ship holidays in the 1960s. They went on the same ship each year, and each year upon entering their cabin after check in, the book that he had been reading the previous year in his cabin was on the nightstand, with the bookmark placed where he had left off.  Clearly, this book is read by many people staying in that same cabin during the year, and clearly an eye for detail and some meticulous record keeping is required by the ship’s staff.  And yes it does sound a bit ‘over-board’ (excuse the pun), but here’s the thing – if this was possible in the 60s, with limited technology, is it really too much to ask for today?

Yes, we have a lot more clients to deal with, and commerce and industry is operating at a rate that was unthinkable in the 60s, but we also have many more resources and tools now than we did then.  So instead of using our resources to add more and more products and services to our offering, should we maybe think about using them to get back to the basics of adding more warmth to our brand and facilitating more personal interaction with our clients?

My thinking is that you will build far more loyalty and make it far harder for a client to continually drive your costs down if you have taken the time to nurture the relationship and give them the personal touch they are craving.

My wish for this year – I hope that you can nurture stronger, better and more personal relationships.