It’s that time of the year that organisations suddenly (including ours) wake up and realise it’s time to engage the customer.
Yes,it’s October and it was customer service week last week! With that came a flurry of messages on SMS,emails, Facebook , Twitter, Instagram from organisations we have engaged at one time of our lives. Some organisations claiming to have diligently served me at one point or another ( hello Data Privacy Bill).
These messages extol how much you mean to these organisations and how much they look forward to interacting with you. One or two people,with genuine concerns, can reach out to the organisations. Lucky them if they get their matter solved.
Well,for he rest of us, as predicted this week there will be silence. There will be total silence from these organisations. It is sadly predictable. It is like going on a week long date with a new catch. It is exhilarating, mesmerizing day in day out. “Is this love?” you ask yourself. Then the following week there is silence. “Did I do something wrong?” you begin to question yourself. Your exhilaration turns to disappointment. That’s pretty much how post-customer service week feels. You feel like you have just been used and dumped.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how about how organisations can differentiate themselves by making the customer front and centre of their existence. (https://torooti.wordpress.com/2019/09/30/understanding-platforms-part-2-how-to-leverage-on-platforms/ )
“Delight the customer” is what I said in that blog. In our office walls and websites we shout to the world our mission extolling our values of “customer-centricity”. And once a year we go all out for one week to tell the customer how important they are to us.
But is “customer-centricity” logical as a business? Yes.
Is it practised? Sadly, most of the time it is not. Worse,even this writer sometimes suffers from not practicing it at times.
Though logical, we fail at actively putting the customer at the centre of what we do as organisations. You see it at a restaurants when waiters do not bother to make eye contact with clients who are eager to order. You see it at the local money transfer agent who looks like you are a bother to them. You see it a banking hall where people are left to wait standing for hours to get served. You see it at hospitals where patients are seen as an irritant rather than a client. You see it every where.
"Mpesa lady" by George Kagwe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKgBB0f4idI
Sometimes I get baffled. Why are we like this a lot of the time? Is it our culture? Is it our up bringing? I am still yet to find out. The worst part is that I find myself behaving like the very people who serve me as a customer and make me mad. Even during my MBA we never had module about the customer. Not even One! It was assumed that it is logical that you exist for the customer. But again that is the reason for #juakaliMBA, the streets teach you more than the class. Our default setting is not customer-centricity.
Despite this, I know we can change. I am changing daily and it takes time. It takes time to unlearn certain habits. Unlearn bad habit Daily. The ones who overcome this default settings are very successful .I know so many. The car wash guy who is ever smiling and does a good job. The guy who remembers your name when serving you. The manager who manages to calm you down when you are pissed and offers a solution ( and not tea argghhhhhh!!!!). There are there. We can learn from them.
I have to confess to being part of he band wagon that has paid lip service to the customer in the past.Even with our techie led business insights we get dragged into he throws of operation madness and the customer becomes a by line.
Here are four things you could do to keep the customer part and parcel of the organisation.
1. In your daily operations have metrics that measure customer sentiment always. Make it part of discussion such a finances, operations and marketing. Never fall into the temptation to put customer sentiments as a secondary thing you look at. It should be the primary.
2. Make it easier for customers to share their sentiments.This is where technology can play a role. Make it easy, and the customer will always tell you when things are going wrong or when very happy. Do not worry too much about the silent lot.Listen to the ones who shout out. In a lot of the cases, they speak (positive and negative) for the silent.
3. It starts at the top. The very top being board(if you have one). The highest levels of leadership in your organisation need to understand clearly and succinctly the client needs and pain points. Customer sentiments should be embellished in the same manner as finances. The top leadership should know that if you “click” with a client, they will engage with you. If you do not,they will take their money elsewhere. This is a fact. Your finances, technology, intellectual property,staff are only a competitive advantage for a time. This will not last.
4. Be open to learn everyday. Read books (Crown your customer by Sunny Bindra is still a favorite) , go for costumer service training, watch people who are good at customer service and see what they do. This will transform your business and leave your competitors wondering what magic source you are using.
As I delete another another “heartfelt” message from my phone I reflect on the possibilities of Kenyan businesses when we begin to embrace the customer.
Have a happy post customer service week.