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Does Customer Service Really Matter to You? (Part 1)

The expression, Customer Service is freely and frequently used in the Nigerian business world. Most organizations have mission statements that promise customer service at some level or the other. You have qualifying words like exceptional, excellent, describing the customer service experience. It is clear that most businesses all understand the need for great customer service. I will even go a step further to say, they would really love to be known for great customer service. But the question remains, how far do businesses go to ensure that customer service is the way it should be?index

The phrase Customer Service is not a mantra. It is not child’s play to be a business that is wired around excellent customer service. There is a whole lot of work that goes into ensuring a business is actually Customer Service oriented. Most businesses on this side of the planet are yet to understand it is more than a mission statement placed on the wall for people to see when they come into the premises.

Before I go any further, I would like to clarify who a customer is. A customer is the person who pays for some value they get from a seller. This value could be in the form of a physical item which is tangible, or a service which is intangible. It could be an idea for which he is willing to part with value. The customer could be an individual or a business buying from an individual or a business. The buying and selling chain gets more complex as the customers and sellers become bigger. However, the customer always receives some kind of value and pays for the perceived value. As long as the exchange has taken place, he/she is a customer.

Having clarified who the customer is, another thing that needs clarification is when customer service actually begins. What do you call it when people come into a shop to window shop? How do you treat customers who come in to ask questions or make inquiries about something they would like to buy ahead of the actual purchase? Does that amount to customer service? Have you tried going into a shop to make enquiries and told them, you are not yet ready to buy, in Nigeria? What was their reaction? How do you feel if they respond warmly and patiently? Don’t you make it a point of duty to go back there to buy when you actually want to buy? That’s my point. Customer service is actually provided to customers before, during and after purchasing and using goods and services. The relationship with your customer starts before the actual purchase.

In many cases, businesses lose customers without realizing it. I have heard many real life funny stories of people being treated shabbily because they were not ready to buy. I am not talking about the jokes that our comedians tell, these are real life stories. A lady went into a shop where they sell fabrics. She went to buy a gift for a friend. She got into this well-furnished and branded shop. The owners had gone to town to create a beautiful ambiance. An attendant came over to help her. She asked for the prices of the different ranges of fabrics available and the attendant took her round and told her the different prices. She eventually opted for the cheapest of the range. Guess what the attendant said, ‘Aunty why did you ask me for all those prices when you were going to buy the cheapest one?’ I have never heard such absurdity; however, this was a real life experience. Yet, if you talk to the owner of the business, she will claim “excellent customer service”. She may not ever be aware of the fact that her staff responded to a customer in that manner. This genre of customer service pervades the Nigerian business world. It is always just so disappointing.

Whenever I raise this issue I hear so many different stories ranging in absurdity. They all boil down to the fact that we just mouth customer service, most of the businesses in our environment are not customer friendly. The customer is just that person who pays for whatever. They don’t feel any obligation to serve the customer.

The reverse is the case in societies that respect customers. Have you ever been into a shop in in England and the attendant comes up to you with a wide smile, ‘How may I help you today?’. She comes back every few minutes and asks if you are fine. Even if you tell them you are just looking, the attitude of friendliness and care remains the same. When will we get there?

As things stand, business in Nigeria is taking a different turn. The days of doing deals are fast coming to an end. We need to begin to place value on the customers we have. We must deliver value excellently to delight them. The realities of our time make it pertinent that we begin to put structures in our businesses to ensure customer delight. That is the only to guarantee the sustainability of our businesses.

The Customer Service discuss continues in Part 2:

Chinwe Kalu, Chief Operating Officer, Customer Passion Point limited, a Value Creation Consulting firm. Twitter: @chinwecppl1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chinwekalu.doveeyes

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chinwe-kalu-07569838?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic

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