Even in a highly competitive industry, customer service can trump cost every time. Here’s how Dave Bondi of Curve Concepts competes on customer satisfaction rather than price.
- Company: Curve Concepts
- Player: David Bondi
- Est: 2005
- Contact: +27 (0)11 793 7316
- Visit: curveconcepts.co.za
Do you believe you're pricing your services too low to remain competitive? The right price is not always the lowest.
The USB flash drive, a little device no bigger than a pinkie finger, is an incredibly popular promotional item. That’s largely thanks to David Bondi.
Related: Improving customer service
Back in 2005, he was selling to promotional gifts partners when he came across flash drives in his database of more than 2 500 products, and noticed that no-one was selling them.
Not one to enjoy working for a boss, he soon resigned and set up reseller business Curve Concepts, with R300 and an online ad campaign, running it solo for two years from his 68m2 townhouse. His hunch was right.
Corporates love branded USB sticks – they help to increase brand awareness, they can be pre-loaded with information for conferences, training and events, and they can also be re-used, unlike a CD or DVD which ends up in a desk drawer never to be looked at again.
Since then, Curve Concepts has grown an average of 35% per annum and is now a multimillion rand business. It has also spawned innumerable competitors.
We spoke to him about the importance of customer service in a sector where price is often king.
1. What’s more important – price or service?
Be flexible without compromising your business principles and integrity. We are often asked to step in when a client has been let down, either due to missed deadlines or poor quality.
A few years ago, we shipped an order to a client and the lanyards were not in the box. The units were for an exhibition, so I took the lanyards, got on a plane, hired a car and sat on the shores of Durban’s beachfront attaching them to the flash drives. The client’s event was a success and they have been supporting us ever since.
Remember that the best price is not always the cheapest, but the one that gives you the best value for money. Take into account quality, service, speed of delivery and after-sales support, including warranty.
Inferior quality products can be damaging to your brand. If a logo is on a flash drive that a company gives away, and two weeks later the unit stops working, the recipient will be left with a poor image of the brand.
2. How have you dealt with fierce competition in a market you once owned?
Competition results in lower costs and better quality for the consumer. Ten years down the line, what has made us strong is having a solid business plan, firm principles and always putting customers first.
If you do have to match pricing, be sure that you are matching apples with apples. USB flash drives are made with various grades of components and some are good, while others are not.
Be sure you are matching the same quality, as well as service and delivery time. Everyone wants to buy platinum at silver prices; be open to negotiation, but keep the health and sustainability of your business in mind.
3. What profit margins are sustainable?
A business should aim for a minimum of 30% gross profit margin to be sustainable, but this varies according to industry sector.
Some businesses thrive with lower margins and high volumes, while others may require a higher margin if the volumes are low.
As a business owner, you should have a solid business plan that will help you to determine what profit margins will keep your company going in the long run. Margins may also need to be adjusted as the market changes.
Related: 8 Keys to award-winning startup customer service
4. What tips do you have for building a successful reseller business?
- Determine if you will be selling B2B or to end-users and consumers as well, and what the price points will be for each client segment.
- Determine who qualifies as a reseller.
- Draw up comprehensive registration forms to vet each applicant
- Ensure that your terms and conditions are clear and readily available.
- Build up your base using online marketing, direct selling, events and exhibitions.
- Establish your reseller network by being trustworthy and offering great service.
- Stay in constant communication with your network through email marketing and social media.
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