LEADERSHIP should lead in the matters of customer service. Customer experiences involves a lot of intricacies and paradox and today I (J.N) engage Benson Mukandiwa (B.M) who is Chartered Manager and Member of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). He evangelises customer management around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, including best-selling customer and employee satisfaction. He is widely acknowledged by a coterie of affiliates and professionals as a customer service strategist, consumer psychologist & expert, business analyst, writer and research fellow in customer management. We had to delve deeper on the issues of customer service.
By JONAH NYONI
JN: More often, you hear these two phrases used interchangeably. The first is customer-centricity, and the other is customer experience. Can you distinguish the two?
BM: Firstly, let me emphasise that It’s really not easy for businesses to compete on price anymore. So corporate leaders have to find other ways of differentiating their brands from their competitors — and customer service is the one sure-superb way of doing that. Customer-centricity is a total commitment or a proactive strategy to assure the success of your customer.
While on the other hand, customer experience is a total summation of a set of customer perceptions forged across all their interactions with your brand.
Leadership for brands committed to customer-centric outcomes typically seek to demonstrate that commitment by interacting with the customer in ways that favourably affect their customers’ perceptions.
That said, many customer-centric actions happen outside the view of customers and, as such, may not even reach the awareness of the customer.
JN: Talking of technology enabling brands improve the experience that they deliver for their customers, where are we as a continent? I understand you were invited to Speak at one of the premier African platforms this forthcoming first Week of March 2018 in Cape Town South Africa, may be you could shed some light on your role and how you were invited to this premier conference.
BM: Though it’s a bit tricky to place it in percentage terms to benchmark with global trends; the fact is that the internet is becoming more and more important in business life, most leading African brands consider it as an opportunity to reduce customer-service costs, improve revenue collection through digital solutions, tighten customer relationships and further personalise marketing messages and enable mass customisation.
Many brands have developed business database that contain interactions data on prospects as well as customers.
The coming in of new technology has brought in immerse benefits to many organisations, the use channels like electronic mails, voice call facilities, traditional letters and text messaging as well as websites to enhance customer service in Zimbabwe is significantly commendable.
About my invitation, out of my deep passion in customer service or experience management and desire to make a difference in the customer experience economy, in 2016, I accepted an editorial role for The Customer Magazine (the CICM Global’s official bi-monthly magazine which is distributed across Africa) on the premise of professional academic development towards my chartered manager status with the CMI-UK and now doctoral studies in customer management & consumer psychology.
The organisers of the conference searched my profile on LinkedIn after going through a virtual copy of The Customer Magazine and they engaged me as Academic Speaker not a key note speaker. This conference is a rare opportunity and a platform to fulfil my continuing professional development as per Chartered Management Institute requirements.
Towards the end of 2017 the organisers communicated that I was upgraded to a Roundtable Speaker for two round table slots hence by virtue of that I was now exempted from paying conference fees approximately
($1 350), instead they gave me five complementary VIP passes, myself included, to give to any willing sponsors (air tickets and accommodation) who would want to have their executives attend the two event. It’s a high packed conference mainly target the C-suite management; Executives; directors head of departments) from e-commerce business.
Over 138 speakers, over 20 African countries being represented, 150 topics being covered by leaders in the FinTech, insurance and banking industries, over 78 banks across the globe being represented and over 2 800 delegates.
JN: Tell us, is it possible to develop or upgrade all employees towards a sound customer centricity service culture and what does it mean to top leadership to ignore staff development?
BM: First and foremost it is the overall customer experience that stays with the customer and will ultimately decide if they will come back to you or recommend you. Brands can take proactive sound drills right from the inception stage of recruitment, by hiring for the right attitude first, then soft skills.
The customer centric service clearly plays an important role in the customer journeym but while the customer service can often be pinpointed to a specific department or individuals, customer experience is the responsibility of everyone at the company.
Henceforth, for a service to be a culture staff development has to set the tone of how fast the paradigm shift will be attained.
Customer service can often be about one single touch point in time and is usually reactionary. Customer experience is the sum of all interactions and is more feeling orientated than problem orientated and is a more proactive experience.
Customer experience is an emotional connection of how the customer perceives your brand and ultimately is not something you can control.
Henceforth, like I always say, soft skills development is always essential to every individual in the organisation from the top strategic level to the lowest operative level.
lJonah Nyoni is an author, success coach and certified leadership/business trainer. He is the author of Inspiration for Success and Success Within Reach. Contact details: Tel: 0772 581 918. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter@jonahnyoni.