By Isaac Maloba
Customer ignorance and desperation have been the two martial factors that have enabled businesses with lousy customers care to thrive in the past. Not only did customers not know their rights and worth but they also didn’t have many alternatives to choose from whenever they weren’t satisfied. This has gone on for long that customers have actually gotten used to it. When they happen to get great service for once, they count themselves more favored than deserving.
This customer care crisis resulted into an unfortunate brand of business owners and managers who were a little arrogant – who considered customer care as peripheral to their work. Notably, in one of our surveys on ‘customer care leadership’, a manager of a fairly big company superciliously asked, “I have been making 632 million bucks for the last three years, why do I need to invest in customer care training?” of course he was answered with a more reflective question, “How sure are you that your profit margin shouldn’t have been 1.2 billion?”
Another recent study in Uganda reveals that 2/10 customers have ever experienced exceptional service, 5/10 say they usually get expected service, 10/10 say they experience rude and indifferent customer service often and still 10/10 say they would gladly change from their current product and service providers if they discovered a new provider with great service.
However, customer ignorance and desperation are but temporary factors. Most businesses are beginning to realize this already. The speed at which customers have become informed and the intensity with which competition is biting hard has left many businesses limping instead of running. Many businesses with great products and immense potential are being muscled out of the market just because they haven’t coped with the best means of satisfying today’s customer.
What attributes define today’s customers? They are choosy, easily offended, irritable, cautious, less loyal, impatient, more demanding, critical and much more. They have realized that they are the ‘kings’ or ‘bosses’ as the adage goes; so they demand royal service. What should businesses do to consolidate their customer care leadership? We shall major on two out of the many recommendations;
In all, we need to arouse a genuine desire to build competitiveness of our local businesses in the face of increasing local and international competition. Developing power boosters to your customer service practices is urgent because several studies have already confirmed that poor customer care drives away more business than advertising drives in. In a Harvard study investigating reasons why customers left one business for another; 5% complained of price while 40% complained of lousy customer service. As such, lousy service drives away customers eight times more than price. What then will happen to businesses with high prices and poor service?
- Develop compelling customer centered values. Almost every business has goals, values, theme colors and other ‘corporate’ features. However, these values are just crammed and not translated into daily dialogue, practice and conviction within the organization. Talk about cliché values like excellence, integrity, equal opportunity, client focus, etc. Any business can claim any superlative as a value but if these values are not practically translated into the lives of the team, then they remain paper values. Every organization that hopes to sustain a high standard of service should begin with polishing and aligning the value system of their workers to higher purposes. Values should be convictions that money, anger, despair and excitement will not compromise. Values can be read in almost every physical, mental and emotional activity within the organization. Do everything you can or seek help in reconstructing the attitudes, beliefs and practices of your team because these form the true culture of the team. Remembers, actions speak louder than words. Demonstrate the values – don’t just print them.
- Train and sharpen the customer service key result areas of your team. Don’t just train; address the critical impact points that increase results over and above the training investment. Do not over embrace the ‘academic’ type of training approach; use the ‘practical’ approach. Why? Because chances are that your workers have incredible knowledge and paper qualifications from ‘vibrant’ colleges and universities already but still lack the sharpness required in the current market reality. Complement their school education with more customer care applicable ideas and skills. Whatever challenges beset your customer care team; there are other teams that have found easier ways out. Practical customer service examples and action points build instant motivation and productivity. Don’t go in for training that only makes you know a lot, get training that increases how much, fast and efficient one performs. Shorten the distance between mere knowing a lot and actual doing to create customer service impact. And don’t forget to constantly measure application of key ideas from training.
Isaac Maloba is a Human Resource consultant and Chief Administrator at Potential Management Centre ( POTMAC)