Hospitable people, terrible service providers

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Ghanaians are popularly known for their deeply hospitable, lovely, and warm approaches, except when one enters into our restaurants, retail stores, beauty parlours, supermarkets, and the like, then that warmth and loveliness experienced almost instantly disappears.

It is quite fascinating how Ghana, a country that was adjudged eleventh friendliest in the world by Forbes through a survey conducted in 2010, as reported by Ghanaweb on March 20, 2011 ironically have customers who visit places in Ghana and experience terrible customer service delivery.

Walking on the streets of Accra, one is very likely to come across people smiling at them, willing to help them find a location when lost, and even go the extra mile (that is if the person helping you has a car) to drop you off at the location.

On the contrary, should one walk into any store looking to buy an item, it is most probable to find the attendant at the store acting as if no one has entered. Usually, you will find the customer being the one to greet first and on a good day, maybe lucky to get a response.

Customers are left alone to walk through an entire store to identify what they need. It even gets worse when the store has a television; one can be in there for hours, figuring things out by themselves.

My recent experience was at one of these famous stores in Accra. I went there looking for spices for a recipe I had seen online. I got to the spices compartment and standing there were two shop attendants who were filling the shelves with more spices.

As my sister and I combed through the numerous brands, not even one of them approached to ask us if we needed help. We got to the exact point where they were unpacking the spices and we were not even excused. We had to ask them to move and their demeanour was so sickening that if not that we needed those spices, we would have left the store. I believe I am not the only victim to have suffered from a similar experience or even worse at our shops, restaurants, just to mention a few.

A recent discussion I had with a relative from the United States mentioned that customer service is such a big deal on the other side of the world. The reason being, there are many options to choose from and interestingly the products are of the same quality and quantity.

He goes on to say that for a business to thrive and boom, the most effective and sought-after approach is delivering exceptional customer service. I wondered, could bad customer service in Ghana be linked to the fact that there is a limit to our options in stores or businesses so, no matter how good or bad the service is, we keep running back to that ‘one’ store?

Following up with a research to validate the question, an article by Cudjoe et al (2015) which assessed service quality and customer satisfaction in the banking sector made a profound statement that there are tons of banks spread across the country and yet despite the prevalence of severe competition in Ghana’s banking business and significant customer turnover, the argument over what drives customer happiness is still common, owing to a rise in complaints about poor service quality.

Though there are several banks as well as other businesses spread across the country which gives customers quite a number to choose from, there are still complaints of bad customer service delivery.

Ghana’s poor customer service is not because we have inadequate alternate businesses. In fact, in the banking industry, for instance, we had so many until the recent closure and merger of some and yet most customers were not and are still not happy with the kind of service delivered.

This is to say that whether one’s only option is the provision shop in the neighbourhood or the many restaurants in town, one is likely to be displeased with customer service delivery in Ghana.

Customer service delivery is an issue of critical concern to many businesses today. Businesses or companies have ignored the main objective for which those entities were established.

Ghanaian businesses perhaps believe that if a product is good, customers will patronise it regardless of how good or terrible customer relations is. Most Ghanaian business owners see customers as business deals instead of seeing them as living human beings!

What Ghanaians fail to understand is that excellent customer service is one of the easiest and cost-effective bait a business can use in increasing revenue growth. And not just that, it gives Ghanaian businesses a competitive advantage, in fact making our country Ghana, the preferred hub for business.

Every business must bear in mind that customers are the lifeblood of every organization. They can break or make a business. Businesses will be non-existent if customers are not willing to spend. They are economic assets to companies because there is a direct relationship between excellent customer service delivery and a boost in revenue.

According to Bain &Company (2015), “companies that excel at the customer experience grow revenues 4%–8% above their market”. Customers may be likened to plants; constant care enhances the growth and survival of the plant which is beneficial to the owner. In the same vein, when customers are catered for, they grow and keep businesses thriving, which is also beneficial to business owners. How to deliver exceptional customer service the Ghanaian way.

As warm and receptive as we are as a people, it will be prudent of us to channel those attributes into our service delivery whether business owner or employee. Personally, I am of the view that hospitable people must automatically be the best service providers.

The one thing I hope any reader will grab from this article is that the solution to most Ghanaian businesses poor customer service delivery is simple–we (Ghanaians) must exude our Ghanaian hospitality for which we are known for around the world not only in social transactions but in our business transactions as well.

Why would we be the eleventh most welcoming country on earth and yet treat our customers as if they do not matter? More often than not, most business owners are of the impression that they are doing customers a favour meanwhile customers are rather doing businesses huge favours by keeping them alive. Business owners must realize how invaluable customers are and must perceive it as an error if a customer leaves their premises unsatisfied. Business owners must always have this tickling in their ears–“There is only one boss: the customer and he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”, Sam Walton.

Additionally, businesses must be customer-focused and should build a work culture that sees customers as number one. It is important and necessary for every business to have a customer service team, if that is too much, perhaps, an employee will be assigned to ensure that customer expectations are exceeded if not at least met. Customer service teams represent the business brand, values, etc. and they must be present in every business to ensure customer trust.

Customer centricity is the most essential factor to promote business survival and growth. According to research conducted by Deloitte (2017), companies that tend to be customer-focused are 60% more profitable than those that do not. Customer service teams are direct links between customers and the business. Furthermore, for a firm to provide exceptional customer service, we must be aware of what customers are thinking now and in the future. We can understand the perceptions and perspectives of customers through surveys and feedback channels.

Knowing this will enable the firm to improve on customer service delivery since it is impossible to improve on something when there is no way of assessing it. Finally, firms must be ready at all times to help customers. I will call it, being at the beck and call of your customers. One sure way to improve on customer service delivery is to attend to their needs with speed and accuracy, going the extra mile and answering questions, and solving problems swiftly whether call-in customers or customers walking into your shop or even those online.

The benefits of exceptional customer service, I would say are non-exhaustive. One main importance is that exceptional customer service delivery promotes repeat purchases. And repeat purchases increase revenue. Customers who feel valued keep coming back for more. Not only do they keep being loyal, but they also invite and encourage their friends, family, and colleagues to purchase from the business. This is easy marketing. The firm does not have to spend more cash on marketing since excellent customer service is doing all the magic.

According to HubSpot Research Trust Survey (2018), 81% of 2319 consumers in the US and UK will trust what their friends and families tell them about a firm over business advice. This is why the importance of customer service cannot be overemphasized. The diagram below illustrates the power of “word of mouth” by customers who visit business premises. To end, exceptional customer service is the gospel that needs to be preached every single day, and employees and business owners alike must be baptized with how to improve customer service delivery in this country.

I hope through this article Ghanaian business will be encouraged to have the culture of treating whoever that walks into their premises or picks up a phone to call them with a high level of customer service as if the life of the business depended on it, and actually, it does. We must sensitize and remind Ghanaian businesses of the importance of excellent customer service delivery and how that boosts revenue in our various businesses.

Not just that, excellent customer service delivery goes a long way in promoting our reputation as a country. It is imperative we do not joke with our customer relations be it on a personal to personal or business to business level. Business owners and employees must be intentional about exceptional customer service delivery or else businesses will fail.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I totally agree with you
    If we don’t start looking at great customer service
    Our businesses will start collapsing

  2. Well done, Nana Akua! Such an informative piece. We really have a lot of work to do regarding customer service quality in our part of the world. Like you said, I also hope your write-up encourages people to embrace the importance of customer service quality. Good job!

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