Effective customer service delivery has always been the hallmark of any business across any sector in the world. The rise of the consumerist economy propelled by capitalism in the 1930’s was hinged on prompt customer satisfaction on all fronts. It should be said this was not really the case until Ralph Nader, a consumer rights activist in the 60’s started taking companies to the cleaners with legal battles and court injunctions that necessitated better service. Ralph Nader became so popular that when he ran for presidency in America in year 2000, he got over 1 million votes. Any formula or template for the emerging economy is a trickle down of the American model to suit realities on ground. It should be said that in the Nigerian business space, there has been a minimal understanding of customer service delivery and that is why implementation is hard.
Understanding Customer Service
Customer service is the act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met. Customer service is meeting the needs and desires of any customer. Some characteristics of good customer service include:
- Promptness: Promises for delivery of products must be on time. Delays and cancellations of products should be avoided.
- Politeness: Politeness is almost a lost art. Saying ‘hello,’ ‘good afternoon,’ ‘sir,’ and ‘thank you very much’ are a part of good customer service. For any business, using good manners is appropriate whether the customer makes a purchase or not.
- Professionalism: All customers should be treated professionally, which means the use or application of competence or skill expected of the professional. Professionalism shows the customer they’re cared for.
- Personalization: Using the customer’s name is very effective in producing loyalty. Customers like the idea that whom they do business with knows them on a personal level.
If this is to be the relative metric in Nigeria, a lot of startups would fail on arrival. As such, for startups to fully understand the essence of customer service delivery, they must remember that technology is good but human feel is even better.
The mistake startups make
The major mistake startups make in Nigeria is that they focus more on the delivery not the service delivery such that the delivery part is hinged on the algorithm and back end technology not the feeling of satisfaction the customer ought to feel. A very vivid example is with the delivery chain of an e-commerce site. The reason why it is problematic is due to not carefully articulating the parameters for good customer experience.
Customer service is the lifeblood – Promise VS Reality
Startups should understand that effective customer service is the lifeblood of their business and a common ground should be found between promise and reality.
The promises currently don’t meet the reality. The laws on ground aren’t even adequate which begs the question of who sets the laws. I know return policy always cause a lot of problems, but in fairness to some startups, the reality on ground hampers effective service delivery, with the hydra headed monster of pay on delivery still destroying a lot of businesses, (the recent killing of a delivery man in Port-harcourt immediately comes to mind). This is why service delivery should meet current realities and this can only be developed through a hands on process of study and brainstorming. Here’s how:
In measuring Customer Satisfaction , the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) is often used. CSI is simply a score that assigns importance ratings of service measures to the satisfaction ratings of those measures as provided by customers on the service delivery of the customers (KPMG, 2013). To empirically calculate Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) therefore, the following formula can be used:
Where CSI = customer satisfaction index, S = satisfaction, I = importance.
Most times, there’s a conflict between employee’s individual state of mind, behavioural attributes and the economic pursuit of an organization. Work-life balance presents a significant ideology which is based on the fact that living a fulfilled and satisfactory adult life requires that the economic and social life of an individual should be classified as less compelling priorities but rather complementary elements of a full life. However the conflict situations encountered by working adults in managing their routine obligations between paid work and private life domains still dominates most work – life studies with abundant literature stressing the realities.
The silver lining
Start ups can achieve a lot of success with customer satisfaction but they must be willing to invest in infrastructure and training and most importantly, developing a customer service culture. They should understand that you are not being subservient to the customer if you help them out. A banker once carried my 25kg bag from Victoria underground station to the overground ~ a white man for that matter and he told me that, that was the training he received from the Metropolitan bank customer service school. Today, I have referred over 40 people to that bank due to that 1 act. Currently, the promise of “excellent customer service”, especially from some startups does not meet reality but we need to keep the work alive.
What has been your most impressive customer service experience or your worst? Please share in the comments.