Customer care and business growth
Customers or clients are the people who patronize our products and services. They are the most important stakeholders in every organization and whether the organization will thrive or fizzle out, depends on this block of people. There are two types of customers; internal customers and external customers. This article focusses on external customers, since the impact they make on an organization is greater. More so, handling internal customers is much easier than dealing with external customers.
Business set up
It is a very welcoming development that, the private sector keeps growing with young entrepreneurs making major inroads. It takes a lot of effort, innovation and most times huge human and financial capital to establish a business. After this investment, the natural disposition is to ensure that the business grows and not collapse. First and foremost, before anyone comes up with a product, he might have searched for a market for it. Businesses normally emerge from opportunities to serve society in a unique way.
The output of your business idea must appeal to the ultimate beneficiaries. Challenges and problems in society all present business opportunities. Many have complained about the lack of funds to establish businesses. Those who believe in their products would go all out to secure loans to start. Why customer care or service is relegated to the background especially when the business succeeds baffles me to greatly.
Customer care lapses
I have encountered several shop owners and attendants who behave as if they’re doing you a favour when you enter their shops. In some situations, shop attendants would be on the phone whilst you wait to be served. Others would talk to you as if there was course for a fight. There are other instances where you are told to wait simply because the attendant is either eating or doing something else. Remember, most customers don’t complain, they just walk away.
Talk about banks and other corporate institutions, and the story is no different. In fact, the experience may be one to forget, although I admit a few institutions are doing quite well. The non-verbal cues carry more weight than when you are engaged verbally. You are simply made to feel unwanted, but how ironical. Some receptionists are just rude and they do everything to show how rude they can be. I was in a banking hall belonging to one of the leading banks in Ghana lately. I stood in the queue waiting for my turn.
A customer was talking to a teller and the look on that teller’s face was enough to turn anybody away. The customer stood there with a solemn countenance as if she was at the mercy of this teller. When it comes to telephone conversations, you can actually freeze. You call to speak to someone via the front office of an organization and there is little or no courtesy from the receptionist or front desk person. Customer helpdesks are set up to deal with complaints but the customer is made to feel like the one at fault. So then, what is the use of a helpdesk?
All the above are examples of how we treat customers and potential customers. I am not surprised when I hear news of businesses collapsing. The causes may be varied, but the lack of customer care would rank amongst the topmost reasons why businesses collapse. It is important to note, that the front desk person or the customer care executive is the face of the business, not the CEO. That person has the ability to retain your customers or drive them away.
Yet from my experience from talking to businesses, this group of personnel are the least trained. Majority of front desk personnel I’ve come across are either Junior High or Senior High graduates who’ve not learnt much about customer care. Strangely enough, the few who’ve acquired higher education behave no different. I will share with you a few principles taught by Horst Schulze, chairman and CEO, Capella Hotel Group, during the Global Leadership Summit 2015, here in Accra. These principles are timeless in bringing customer care alive in your business.
Start with a Service Mindset
Caring is service, otherwise it is nothing at all. Your first step of realizing a great business is recognizing that service is a product. No one sells a product and leaves the frontline personnel behind. The entire sales force and the customer care team need orientation on what service is all about. There are always two products a business could offer; service and the other product(s). During the orientation, the team must be taken through the overview of the organization and the caliber of customers or clients it deals with.
They must be taken through the vision and mission of the organization. They should be exposed to all the key policies of the business. I will recommend two major policies in this direction; the quality policy and the customer care policy. There is need to keep reminding the team that, service is the first product.
Keeping Customers is most important
Your organization thrives on customers. Your number one priority is to keep your customers. Customers thrive on quality service because most of them see service as a product too. It’s amazing how organizations easily forget that their customers are the pillars on which they stand. They start well and when they’ve won customers over, service is thrown out the window because they now have to concentrate on their ‘core’ product(s).
Customer care executives become abusive and walk the direct opposite of what care stands for. They normally will say “do you know the number of customers we have? we don’t care losing just one customer”. That is how businesses fail and go down. Incidentally it happens subtly. Keep your customers like diamonds and you will see an upward trajectory of your business.
Start well and end well with customer service
The purpose of every organization should be service. Organizations exist to serve, and that is a fact. Any organization that starts with profit as its first priority, has failed before it started. I really like the concept of social entrepreneurship, because such enterprises have the mindset of solving problems of society first before thinking of profit. You have to be nice to your customers. Horst says, the first 10 seconds is very important, whether you are engaging your customer on phone or personally. Listen attentively and your posture should be that of readiness to serve the needs of the customer talking to you.
Three quick steps to follow; welcome them, comply with their needs and remember to address your customers by name. Farewell is the last element to remember. Let your customer leave your organization feeling like coming back. Go like ‘have a nice day’ or ‘enjoy the rest of the day, hope to see you again soon’ etc.
Lead your teams to service excellence
I have already mentioned that service is a product. The most successful businesses always learn to personalize and individualize service. It doesn’t matter whether your business is small, medium or large scale, the principle of excellence cuts across. I’ve come across minimarts and neighbourhood groceries who do a great job at customer service. Unfortunately, they are in the minority.
So it doesn’t matter the size of your business, you must teach your team to serve with excellence. We go to work to show excellence. Every team member must understand this principle. So once you select your team, they’ll need to be properly oriented towards excellence. Once they know these supporting nuggets, they show it all the way, and the business thrives.
Caring, Empowering and respecting – the moral thing to do
The first group of people you need to give a lot of attention to is the team at the front of the business. The customer service team, including the front desk executives. Many business heads and CEOs pay least attention to this team. Incidentally, they are the front line personnel and their attitude may affect the fortunes of your organization.
Hire people to make them part of the business, to improve their customer service culture. Let your team share in the dream of your organization, and help them to accomplish the mission of the business. Service and care are products. The more you invest in these, the chances your organization will stand the test of time.
Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Executive Director & Lead Consultant, QA CONSULT (Consultants and Trainers in Quality/Safety Management, Manufacturing Excellence and Food Safety) and can be reached on +233209996002, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY: Johnson Opoku-Boateng
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