The world service week came and went quietly. It was a week to celebrate customers and appreciate their business. A few companies send text messages to their customers and appreciated them while few others improved their service for the week to woo customers. They actually showed that it is possible to serve customers better. Yet all around service sucks.
Service in most industries is regarded as a competitive advantage. Any company that treats customers with respect and care wins repeat sales while the majority who have not mastered the art wowing their customers languish with poor bottom lines.
Walk into a public office, and notice the officers looking the other side. Then one comes and asks you, “have you been assisted?”, and you are like, who else should have served me, but you politely reply, “not yet”. Then he says, “wait a minute” and goes to ask a colleague something, then comes back and says, “now tell me”. You narrate your story, then he asks you, “do you know we are digitizing, your case is very difficult in the current situation”. At that moment you are forced to ask “what will it take to have it done”, his response, “what do you have?”. And depending on how you respond, you get or do not get service.
The private sector is a mixed bag, some service halls are inward looking; there are many branded counters and offices but few carry the name “customer or service”. You will find offices branded Regional sales manager, Branch Manager etc. and nowhere to indicate to the customer where he can get any other services except sales.
Floor managers are a cost that companies don’t want to incur hence leave customers to their own devices in service halls. It is not uncommon to find customers asking each other which counter to pay at or which one to ask questions.
Yet some companies excel here, with counters marked Assistance or how can we help manned by physically appealing human beings. They additionally employ the digitized queue system, where you sit down and wait for your number to beamed over the speakers. Some halls are large to the extent that the announcements are now the entertainment because a number is being called out every second, making it sound like noise.
Organization verses customer services relationship can now be equated to that of a wife and husband where they are so used to each other that no one really cares about serving the other better. One story has it about how husbands are served their food; whichever food they can get from their wives. The food is served by just spreading and finger pointing to it and exclaiming, “here it is, eat, once done tell me to close up”.
When you take a Matatu in Nairobi, before and after the Michuki era, you know you have to stand the verbal and physical stench of the conductor, the filth of the seats, the crowding, the rough driving and you are not expected to complain. In fact, you are expected to pay your fare prompt and a light when the vehicle is moving. The only time you are accorded some decency is when the vehicle is picking you up. And that sector talks of improved customer care.
By not thinking ahead for the comfort of your customer, you are planning to provide poor service. Take an example of a public university on the day freshmen report. It is chaos, total chaos. I know one university that boasts as a technology university but has nothing that looks like technology in the whole of the registration process. You have to queue with papers from one station to the other for a whole day and miss accommodation at six in the evening and be send back home with your parent.
In this whole melee, companies conduct customer satisfaction surveys where they gauge the feeling of customers. In surveys such as Net Promoter Scores (NPS), customers respond as to whether they will tell other customers to come to this company. When results are damning, you will hear executives exclaim, “I think our customers don’t understand, we should conduct trainings to teach them how to answer these questions”. In this self-denial process, they miss the opportunity to understand the customer needs and improve service, hence miss an opportunity to build competitive advantage through superior service.
Customer service celebrations will remain just that till we change the mindset to focus on the customers needs as opposed to just making a sale.