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Delivering the WOW Customer Experience

Delivering the WOW Customer Experience

I have been expressing my thoughts on delivering excellent customer service, especially in our part of the world. As business people, we are advised to think global but execute locally, customise it into the local experience. In Sub Saharan Africa, it appears that excellent customer service is thought of as a western thing. So, the people do not expect it.  We basically accept whatever we get. Those of us who complain are thought of as being difficult. So, instead of the issues to be addressed, we are shrugged off like irritants.  customer-satisfaction-1-728

In my opinion, what that means is that excelling in customer service would be a very obvious business differentiator. All you have to do is make your service culture a consistent ‘wow’ experience, and your business will thrive despite the challenges. It is actually a business opportunity.

What would the perfect Customer Service person be like? What are the attributes this person would exhibit that would definitely deliver the ‘wow’ experience? That is what this piece will be about. I would expect the person to have the following:

An Amiable Personality

This one is a no brainer.  Of course, the person has to be likeable, friendly, courteous, agreeable, patient and good natured. The person has to have a positive and can-do attitude. I expect the person to be cooperative, honest, trustworthy, able to take initiative, careful, able to serve others, humble and composed. These are all different ways to say the person must have a healthy dose of self-esteem which enables him or her to be composed at all times.

A confident and appropriately dressed customer service person will also exhume an aura that enables total customer relaxation within that business environment. That is a good place to start any business transaction or relationship.

Great People Skills

This one is also given. Some people just know how to intuitively manage people, all kinds of people- pleasant and unpleasant, difficult people. That is the kind of person I would want relating with my customers. With a little coaching, they become stars.

In a B2C setting like a retail shop floor, it is a lot easier to deal with people. The transactions are usually immediate and all we really need to do is be pleasant and friendly, offering a lot of help until the transaction is done.

But for B2B businesses, the need to understand people and how to manage them is really crucial. It is important to remember that businesses are made up of the people who run them. So we must really take time to understand these people- their personalities, demographics, cultural and social affiliations, spending habits, thinking patterns, etc.

All these affect the way they do business. The more the customer service person is able to understand these differences, the more the ability to treat each one specially.

Not understanding these differences in people could make work unbearable as businesses deliver a one-fits-all type of experience.  It never works. We must find a way of working with people, recognising their differences, one way or the other.

Great Communication Skills   

Communication is the crucial to excellent customer service. The quality of communication becomes better if customer service people understand what communication means. Communication does not mean relaying information. Rather communication means a message has been relayed which has been understood and feedback received. So for communication to take place there must be a sender and receiver of information and they communicate through a medium.  The receiver must be able to decode the information accurately as intended by the sender. The receiver should also give feedback to confirm receipt of intended message. If that has not taken place, then the communication has not been effective.

There are different kinds of communication relevant when dealing directly with customers.  It could be verbal or non-verbal. I have often heard people say, it is not what was said but how it was said. People can communicate without speaking. Customer service people must ensure that all communication is as intended. If a customer picks an unacceptable attitude in a conversation or an email, it could ruin everything.

Listening skills are also crucial to understanding customers. A lot of the time people are too impatient to listen. Yes we have busy schedules, other customers to attend to, reports to write etc, but listening to the customer is what keeps businesses alive. Let them speak. Enable them to really tell us what they are expecting. That way we can truly delight them.

Understanding Product /Service, the Organization and Brand Promise

Have you ever gone to make enquiries from a customer service person and they ask you to wait for them to ask some other person who also needs to ask some other person. Sometimes you don’t get an answer at the end of the day.

My example may be somewhat exaggerated, but it does happen. All customer service people must fully understand the dynamics, workings and features of the products and services they sell.  Not just the products and services but also business processes-who does what, whom resolves what, how long it takes, and all the other little details.

Nothing is as frustrating to customers as a customer service staff who does not know what to do real time. It really puts people off. Before putting someone before customers, businesses must ensure they know what to do. They must understand how things work. They must be able to deal with the everyday issues that arise.

Knowledge of Customer Complaint Management

Taking Customer service to the place where we are able to manage complaining customers is critical. When a customer complains, it is a plus, because we have the opportunity to transform that complaint into a wow moment.

However, a lot of the time, that is the point we totally lose them. We either ignore them, pass them on to someone else, or treat them like irritants. We just don’t maximize the moment. In some sectors they make it difficult to resolve the issue, customers don’t bother to complain anymore. What we fail to recognize is that most unhappy customers use more than one way to complain. The more dissatisfied the customer, the more forms of complaining.

Now when complaints are easily resolved, they are unlikely to use other forms of complaining which is why businesses should encourage direct complaint from customers.

Empowering the Customer Service Staff

It is one thing for customers to complain but another to have their complaints resolved quickly. That can only be achieved, if customer service people are empowered to resolve the issues.

Without empowerment, a lot of complaints will end up unresolved. Please don’t refer customers to other people, or tell them to call back, or tell them to hold on or wait endlessly. Once that happens, you are simply telling them to look for alternatives. No business wants that. It actually costs more to get them back that just retain them.

To empower customer service staff, businesses need to equip them with all the tools, information and skills required to meet customer needs. The power you give them is what keeps customers coming.

Customer Service is the 21st century business differentiator, especially in Sub Saharan Africa. Whenever customers make contact with businesses, the more memorable the experience, the more likely to retain their patronage. It sounds so simple but the dynamics to deliver excellent customer service are detailed and very demanding. Are we as Sub Saharan African businesses, ready to make the sacrifice it requires to build customer centric businesses. That is a question we must really stop to answer, if we want to take businesses from the region to the global space.

Chinwe Kalu, COO Customer Passion Point Limited

Skype ID: chinwe.kalu2











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