Let’s make a vow: We will no longer ask — or answer — the question “What do women want?” Instead, if we’re truly trying to be help women entrepreneurs, let’s ask them, “What do you need?”
The latest Key4Women/Forbes Insights report, Strategies for Recovery: Woman-Owned Small Businesses Put the Customer First, gives us some idea. Most (69 percent) of the woman-owned businesses surveyed report that “improving customer service is critical to [their ability] to recover from the recession,” yet only 18 percent have a formal, company-wide customer-service strategy in place. In fact, 55 percent of these businesses say they handle customer service problems on a case-by-case basis.
Even though many consumers are increasingly turning online and to social media to research before they buy, the majority (61 percent) of the women business owners surveyed are not using social media for customer service, and a jaw-dropping 25 percent say they don’t even have a company website.
Some additional surprising stats in the report:
- 77 percent of the women business owners have never offered a rewards program.
- 49 percent don’t keep track of customers’ purchasing activity.
- Only 28 percent send an e-newsletter to their customers and a mere 16 percent publish a blog.
These women-owned businesses, along with many others, need help, and Ernst & Young is offering solutions. Once again the global consulting corporation is presenting its Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, which offers the business owners selected the chance to be part of a network of the country’s best entrepreneurs and high-growth companies. The Entrepreneurial Winning Women program is designed to help women business owners:
- Identify potential partners, strategic alliances, customers, and suppliers as well as prospective sources of private capital.
- Expand their knowledge with the latest information, research, and executive dialogues on business strategies and practices tailored to high-growth companies.
- Receive one-on-one guidance and support.
- Strengthen their executive leadership and business skills and identify opportunities to grow and scale their companies by meeting with senior advisors and seasoned entrepreneurs who can serve as role models, coaches, and mentors.
To find out more about the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program and what women business owners need to thrive in today’s challenging environment, I talked to Maria Pinelli, Americas Director, Strategic Growth Markets Leader for Ernst & Young.
Rieva Lesonsky: This is the third year Ernst & Young has presented this program. What have you learned?
Maria Pinelli: We have adjusted a few things to provide more customized support for the Entrepreneurial Winning Women. We have learned that our winners are great resources for each other and we have built in more opportunities for them to network and share success and best practices with each other. We’re also working to expand the network of mentors and advisors available to the Winning Women.
Lesonsky: Why did you start this program? Are you satisfied with the results so far?
Pinelli: Ernst & Young has been a passionate supporter of entrepreneurs for almost 25 years now. We see their economic impact and positive effect on local communities very clearly. And we firmly believe that entrepreneurship is a state of mind — and something that all companies, big or small, should cultivate.