The second rule of business: Satisfied customers lead to success

The first rule of business: The customer is always right. The second rule of business: Satisfied customers lead to success.

A survey recently conducted by Sprint validated this idea by finding that more than half of American small businesses owners believe that customer satisfaction is the single most important measure of business performance, ahead of other factors such as profitability, employee productivity and market share.

"Small business owners and executives are much closer to the front lines of their operations, so they recognize the contributions that satisfied customers can make to a company's long-term success," said Patti Manuel, president of Sprint Business, which markets communications products and services to businesses. "Our own ongoing research has shown that this type of long-term thinking has come to characterize businesses of all sizes, which is why companies like Sprint place a much stronger focus on building more responsive relationships with our customers."

Sprint commissioned the survey to assess how small businesses think about a range of business performance and technology issues. The survey was conducted of 1,000 American small businesses-defined as companies with gross annual revenues of $10 million or less-by the independent research firm Roper Starch Worldwide. The survey results will help Sprint Business continue to develop and deliver communications programs that enable small businesses to achieve their maximum potential. Highlights from the Sprint/Roper survey include:

Performance Indicators: When asked to select from a list of 16 items that can have the largest impact on their company's overall business performance, an educated workforce was the No. 1 factor, cited by 21 percent of respondents, followed by high employee morale, good management skills, access to capital and less government regulations/ taxes.

Performance Enhancers: When asked what steps they were taking to improve their business performance, 18 percent of the respondents cited employee training. Other answers included increasing the use of communications products and services, relying more on teamwork, improving customer service/satisfaction and increasing their use of computers.

Communication Methods: Even with increased use of e-mail and the Internet for daily interaction, personal contact continues to represent a preferred method of communication among respondents. When asked to select from a list of 10 options describing the method by which their companies most often communicate with customers, the majority (50 percent) cited verbal phone contact, followed by face-to-face contact (30 percent).

Technology Expenditures: The majority of respondents said they plan to continue their technology spending during 1997. Forty-two percent said they will increase spending on technology products and services in the coming year, while more than half said they will spend the same amount in this area. Only 6 percent said they will spend less on technology in the coming year.

"The message for companies serving these small businesses is that we must help them be more productive and contribute to the satisfaction of their customers," said Manuel. "By tailoring a package of products, services and advice through an ongoing relationship, companies like Sprint can become valuable partners to these growing businesses."

Sprint is a global communications company-at the forefront in integrating long distance, local and wireless communications services-and is the world's largest carrier of Internet traffic. Sprint built and operates the United States' only nationwide all-digital, fiber-optic network and is the leader in advanced data communications services. Sprint has $14 billion in annual revenues and serves more than 16 million business and residential customers. (NAPSI)

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