Navigating This Age of ‘Excuseflation’: 3 Strategies for Small Businesses to Excel in Communication and Services

Navigating This Age of ‘Excuseflation’: 3 Strategies for Small Businesses to Excel in Communication and Services

Over the past year, the term ‘excuseflation’ has been growing in business conversations. I’ll admit, I just learned about this terminology, but the definition or explanation of it I have become all too familiar with since the start of the pandemic. To put it lightly, ‘excuseflation’ refers to the increasing tendency of businesses to attribute shortcomings in their services or products to external factors.  Most commonly global events (wars), inflation/stagflation, or supply chain disruptions. While these factors undoubtedly influence business operations, the excessive reliance on these reasons has begun to wear thin on consumers, causing them to question the authenticity of these claims.

As the marketplace continues to evolve, it is crucial for small businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors who try and exploit ‘excuseflation’ to their advantage. Below are three competitive strategies that can help small business owners in providing better communication and superior services, and most importantly setting themselves apart in their respective market.

Emphasize Transparency

One of the major issues with ‘excuseflation’ is its potential to erode consumer trust. To combat this, small businesses should prioritize transparency in all interactions with their customers. Whether it’s discussing product pricing, delivery timelines, or service limitations, being open and honest about these matters can build a stronger bond with consumers. Using tools like weekly social media updates on freshly available products and materials. Communicating through your email newsletters, or even direct conversations can help businesses stay transparent and foster a culture of trust. Don’t hesitate to flex a little bit on your hill of honor, you’ll win new clients and customers that’ll be with you for years.

Leverage Customer Service as a Differentiator

This is probably my favorite because in many big retail or big commerce establishments, the mission is volume and customer service is near the bottom of their values. So in the face of ‘excuseflation’, a small business can stand out by providing exceptional customer service. This involves not just addressing customer issues, but proactively working to prevent them. Regular check-ins with clients, asking for feedback (yes even making a warm phone call will go a long way). Even if you only dedicate 20 minutes a day to  make sure your customers know that their satisfaction is your top priority, at the end of a week we’ve seen a small percentage turn into additional sales. Remember, small businesses often have the advantage of a more personal touch, which can go a long way in making customers feel valued.

Continuous Improvement and Innovation

While some businesses are blaming the environment for their performance, use this as an opportunity to introspect and innovate. Focus on improving your products, services, or internal processes and procedures. This could mean investing in technology to streamline operations or brainstorming ways to improve your product or service based on customer feedback and tone of the marketplace. Innovation not only helps in providing superior offerings compared to competitors who use ‘excuseflation’, but also showcases your commitment to growth, regardless of external factors.

Closing Theory: While ‘excuseflation’ might seem like an easy route in the short term to raise or keep prices high,  businesses that choose to blame external factors for their shortcomings risk damaging their reputation and brand in the long term. As a leader, you have the opportunity to take a different path. Lead by emphasizing transparency, prioritizing customer service, and committing to continuous improvement and innovation, you can effectively differentiate your business and build a strong, trusting relationship with your customers.

Designers: Jack Of All Trades, Master of None?

Web design wordsThis topic is one that I must say is a bit close to home. Maybe its a bit of therapy to say some things out loud, and maybe its a cry for help. Either way, it’s something I felt I should bring up to get you (our readers) to comment on. When I got into the web design or design industry, I had taken no prior classes, courses, lessons, drawing, nada. My background was in IT. Break just about any device and I could fix it. Now when I decided to walk into the design field, I jumped all in. Pestered my friends to let me use their computers to try out Photoshop. Bought really old versions of Macromedia desktop publishing software. I tried to get my hands on all the tools I would need to be a success.

After attaining all the things I needed, I really got involved in learning. However the more I learned the more I learned I had a lot to learn. So then I started to learn less new things, and develop skills in the things I knew or wanted to be better at. And that’s when the problems started. I became pretty good in creating wireframes and websites, basic business logos, flash animations, and more. However when opportunities came to me for more complex jobs, I shied away from them.  Sure I would take some but most I wouldn’t because I knew I’d be getting in over my head. What I should have done was take all that as a sign to become a master at one thing at a time.

When you’re a solo-preneur in this industry, you almost don’t have a choice but to try to learn and do everything yourself. My advice is to learn a trade at a time. Get to be great at design, then move to web. When you’ve conquered those then move to mobile. But being “ok” in all of those and more will end up hindering you on seeing big picture and acquiring bigger clients. I mean that’s the goal isn’t it? To get bigger contracts that allow you to continue to do what you love. Now if you don’t have time to learn more, hire someone who already does know more than you. In fact surround yourself with people who know a heck of a lot more than you. It helps you stay humble, but also makes you aspire to be a greater designer.