The wonderful people who produce our COBRA (Complete Business Reference Adviser) have started surveying subscribers to their free EnterQuest weekly tips and ideas bulletin for startups and small business owner managers.
Their first one was designed to gauge their opinions and levels of satisfaction of business support services they had received or experienced over the last 12 months:
The results of the survey were in certain respects rather surprising, and in other ways quite predictable. The survey asked readers for their views relating to sources of support received, ie from Business Link, enterprise agency, local council, and Chamber of Commerce. They were quizzed about what satisfied them the most, what was most disappointing, and asked for suggestions for improvements.
The most striking result was the performance of Business Link, with two-thirds (65%) of respondents satisfied with the support received (43% were very satisfied), but with over a third (35%) not very satisfied or totally unsatisfied. General satisfaction levels were very similar for support from local enterprise agencies, but fewer of these (only 35%) were very satisfied.
While there are encouraging signs that things are moving in the right direction with attitudes towards Business Link,it still remains a stark fact that one out of three businesses were still not satisfied with the support they received, and 44% were not satisfied across all types of local business support provision.
Overall, survey responses from recipients of business support across all providers are summarised as follows:
Very satisfied 26%
Fairly satisfied 30%
Not very satisfied 22%
Totally unsatisfied 22%
So in aggregate the results are 56% satisfied with support received and 44% not satisfied. Survey respondents were located in all regions of the UK.
In terms of the specific questions asked in the survey and qualified answers given, the responses were varied and in certain cases quite animated. The following is a summary of some of the typical responses given for three of the main question areas.
What disappointed you the most?
- lateness of the adviser, lack of respect shown
– e-mails and phone calls unanswered/ not returned
– the adviser did not understand my business or my industry
– lack of clear written steps for funding applications
– no new advice given, I knew what was said already
– excellent support programmes stop when their funding is withdrawn or ends
– lack of understanding of local business needs
What pleased you the most?
- quick response to grant application, given answer in five days
– the adviser understood our business model
– we got what was written on the tin, and in good time
– excellent training sessions from Business Link
– free Business Link support
– wealth of free information provided by adviser
– good follow-up range of courses available
What do you suggest that would improve the service you received or would like to receive in the future?
- the adviser should have real, practical experience of business
– specialist rather than general help and advice is needed
– more empathy with first-timers
– more long term funding for successful support programmes
– more local services and resources available
– loans available for true micros
– more interest in customer needs than in ticking boxes
Key likes – courses, free services, local support and advice.
Key dislikes – supplier driven (need to tick their boxes), exclusion of micros and sole traders, general rather than specialist advice.