Make a customer not a sale; here’s why

Make a customer not a sale. Lessons from landlords, private schools and the matatu crew

Tenants, parents and passengers. Do you suppose those that sell to them have ever seen them as customers? Those that sell to them are, respectively, landlords, schools and the matatu crew. Do you suppose an upside to this pandemic will be that the three will rethink their buyers and see them for who they are: customers? Not payers for the sale they crave. I hope they do.


In the early days of the pandemic, the country was in thrall at the landlord in Naivasha that waived three months’ rent for his tenants. It might as well have been breaking news given the buzz it created. This is because, ‘if you don’t pay, leave’ is what we are accustomed to.

It is anticipated that the real estate sector will be most affected by this pesky virus. As it is, there is a landlord I know, whom, to stem the exodus of tenants from his apartments because they no longer could afford the rent, appealed (in writing) to the remaining ones to stay, assuring them that he does not intend to evict any of them, and in fact, has reduced the rent by ten per cent, and is open to payment plans. Should land lords start thinking of their tenants as customers and treat them as such, and not merely a transaction?


The buyer-seller relationship in schools is (was?) so intimate that customers aren’t referred to as such, but as parents. Alas! The intimacy (if at all it was there) was shattered when private schools, rudely shaken by the financial earthquake wreaked by the pesky virus, panicked and went into survival mode. Suddenly parents became, ‘those that must pay to meet our costs.’

The emotional connection, so critically important to any sustainable customer growth and retention plan, snapped like a twig, and the buyers (parents) took the seller (school) to court over pricing. .Who would have imagined this happening pre-pandemic? In fact, Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs) are intended for resolving such challenges on the fly. Had the schools seen parents as customers, do you suppose they would have responded differently?

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Matatu crew

This third one is tough. Will the matatu crew treat passengers as customers this time round or will they still need divine intervention to do so? With their customers working from home, that the crew have suffered from job losses is not news. However, will they learn from it, will be.

How would it look like if they treated passengers as customers? They would display the same affection to passengers from start to end of a journey as they do when wooing them to board.  They could also learn from the likes of Uber and SWVL. Do you realise that exemplary customer experience was their entry point, remains their biggest competitive edge and the reason for their growing popularity?

The trio sellers demonstrate in graphic detail that, even when demand far outstrips supply, sellers must always seek to make a customer, not a sale.

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