Many years ago, when I got my first full-time job, I needed a bank account. At that time, I knew nothing about banks, brands or business. They just told me I needed a bank account so I had to get one.
So, one morning I went to the city’s main street where many banks are located and entered a big popular one. In the banking hall there was no one to guide me, but I saw people in a queue and joined them. When it was my turn, I faced an officer who was just too busy for me.
This gentleman was speaking on the phone with his head down, while shuffling through a pile of papers and talking to another colleague seated to his right. In my entire 10 minutes at this desk, not even once did he look at me. At the end, he slid a photocopy paper to me with the requirements to open an account and moved on to better things. He made me feel insignificant, unseen and sad.
Because I really needed the account, I had to try my luck elsewhere. So, I walked into another bank a few metres away. In this other bank, they treated me differently. As soon as I stepped through the glass door a sharply-dressed agent approached me, asked what I wanted and led me straight to someone I later discovered was called a relationship officer. This officer was attentive and explained things to me in simple language. It felt like talking with an experienced older sibling. She made me feel my needs matter and was someone who cared enough to listen and help.
By the time this officer said ‘bye’ to me, I had opened a salary account and an additional investment account, and got sound investment advice; and to think I left my house planning to only open a basic account for my meagre salary!
More than 10 years later I still bank with this organisation, and it all started from superior customer service.
One strange thing about business is how organisations invest a lot of resources to build solid products, great marketing and robust sales plans, and turn around to abandon customer service for it to be handled by inexperienced staff in the customer service department.
This is strange, because marketing works hard to attract customers; so when prospects finally come to try the service, it is a loss if the service does not confirm the brand promise. No wonder a study by NewVoiceMedia found out that businesses lost US$75billion due to poor customer service in 2018 alone.
Three simple steps to improve customer service
- Make service a company-wide culture
Get rid of the mindset that only people in the customer service department are expected to serve. No employee is above service, and every worker must understand that they are actually providing an internal service to their colleagues. A fun way to do this is let people take turns to meet costumers. When the culture-shift flows through the entire organisation, it ultimately improves how employees treat customers.
- Go professional
If you can afford it, there is value in outsourcing call centre and consumer engagement operations to a third-party company that specialises in this work. If you cannot afford it, investing in hiring one experienced professional to train and supervise an in-house team is a tactic that works well.
- Get a Senior sponsor
When senior leaders throw their weight behind customer service, things change drastically. Every head of department should be asked to implement one programme in their department to improve service – internally and external. This visibility helps to improve service delivery.
Superior customer service is one sure way to grow a business. By simply making customers happy, companies can excite existing users and recruit new users. Because everybody wants to be treated well, anyone providing a service can use what I call the human-mirror test, which is simply to ask: “If I were the one in this situation, is this how I would want to be treated?” Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
>>>the writer is a well-rounded marketing professional with a track-record of delivering growth while managing or consulting for some of West Africa’s most familiar brands. Eric is a people-centred leader who combines the power of marketing with the execution rigour of general management. He specialises in brands marketing and strategy, business management, communication, media and PR.
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