Customer service excellence

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Jonah Nyoni

Last night Zimbabwe hosted the 2017 Service Excellence Awards at the Rainbow Towers, Harare. These awards remind us of an important thing in business: customer service excellence. Service excellence does not just happen, but it takes concerted efforts by both the company and its employees.

By JONAH NYONI

What is customer service excellence? It is the level to which service meets the client’s or customer’s expectations and needs. Excellent service, therefore, becomes the extent to which companies surpass customer needs by offering the best customer experience.

I engaged a customer service excellence expert, Patience Phiri. She is a certified international customer service professional.

She was nominated the Customer Service Professional of the Year some months back, and she holds numerous certificates on customer service, customer relationship management, and servant leadership. With over 10 years of experience in service quality management and sitting on several boards, she (PP) was an ideal person I (JN) could interview:

JN: What is customer service for starters?

PP: It is the manner in which the needs or expectations of a customer are met or surpassed before, during and after the provision of a product or service.

JN: Recently, we had the customer service week worldwide, what is its significance?

PP: The Customer Service Week is commemorated internationally every first week of October. It is a week in which organisations take time to appreciate both their internal and external customers.

This is not to say that service excellence should be exercised only in this week because it should be a culture and lifestyle. It is an expression of valuing your customers enough to set aside a week in a year’s calendar to show them that you appreciate their patronage.

JN: In Zimbabwe, where are we in customer service excellence?

PP: Good customer service is a rare gem in Zimbabwe; you bump into it mostly by accident. There are, however, organisations that are evidently going the extra mile to give good service, mostly in the private sector.

In countries like Singapore, service excellence has become a national culture because it is embraced by everyone and has become a foundation of their governance. The “brand” Zimbabwe can be improved if we uphold good customer service. This will help attract and retain customers for our country, such as tourists.

Proper customer service takes care of the basics before it goes for the frills, thus the main meal before the desert or the cake before the icing. In Zimbabwe, most of the basics are still work in progress.

However, people should not use macro issues like the state of the economy as an excuse for giving good service because personal attributes like attitude, character, and personality are also key in service provision. Zimbabweans should focus on things that are within their zone of control and zone of influence first and excel in them. That way, we take responsibility for creating our own service culture.

JN: How does business uphold best practices in customer service provision?

PP: Business generally upholds customer service because there is a consensus that customers are the lifeblood of the business and its very reason for existence. Customers, however, have a voice and a choice; they vote with their feet and with their money.

Business, therefore, appreciates that to get what is in the customers’ wallets you have to put a smile on their faces. However, it is one thing to acknowledge the importance of customer service and another to actually give good service.

Most businesses talk about service and craft cosmetic approaches to create something that resembles customer service in shape and form yet inside its hollow. True customer service resonates from the heart rather than the head. Having people with a heart and passion for customer service is imperative in crafting and implementing any service strategy.

JN: What is the impact of technology on customer service?

PP: As someone who studied computer science, I have seen technology revolutionising the approach to customer service over the years.

The internet has brought both challenges and opportunities in customer experience management. For organisations that have been itching to harness the voice of their customer, social media has created a great platform for this to be achieved. However, with minimal control over what can be shared on social media, it has also become more complex to manage brand perceptions as negative comments that can go viral.

Technology has made service easier to access through platforms like Mobile Apps, Live chats et cetera. Customers are now spoilt for choice in the global village as service can be accessed beyond borders in a few clicks. This competition is healthy for customer service as this will inevitably increase levels of service.

2 COMMENTS

  1. customer service awards dzeyi when no company in zim deserves such an award?just the fact yekuti regional prices for comparable goods and services are far lower than zim prices should be an indictment against these awards.

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