The journey started with a single step, a commitment by Paul Wambua the Stima Sacco CEO to lead a service improvement initiative. Soon after, a customer service conversation with the entire leadership team was in full swing. I recall alerting the team that the discussions we were about to have and the actions we were about to take were likely to touch on every aspect of the organization, and for sure they did.
For the last 4 decades Stima Sacco has served its members. Members have had access to a wide variety of credit products and services and they have also enjoyed the front office banking services. After having been appointed CEO in 2010 Paul felt that there was a missing link in how the Sacco viewed and served its members. “Was it the culture, the strategy, the people, the processes or all of them?” I wondered. The culture was the first point of focus. Were there shared values in support of excellence? Were there assumptions hindering service excellence? Did the behaviours and the habits seen when serving both internal and external customers reveal a commitment to serve with excellence? With this background, it was obvious that Stima Sacco needed to get started on a journey to embed a culture of service excellence across the entire organization.
During the initial interactions it was apparent that the leadership team was not very clear on what service excellence was and what their role would be. After several management workshops the team was on the right track and ready to get all the other staff on board. In May 2013 a companywide Service Excellence Program was launched under the theme “Delighted to Serve”. The leadership team showed the way and the staff received the initiative positively and committed to serve their customers both internal and external with excellence. It was also during the launch that the leadership team shared the core values that had been developed earlier during the strategic planning process. The launch was followed by identification of service champions in every department, development of service objectives, internal and external service standards development and implementation alongside a companywide customer service training on the desired customer experience among other initiatives. This has been running for the past 18 months and in the last few weeks we have embarked on the last stage of this initial phase i.e. implementing a customer feedback system. This will not only help to collect customer feedback that will be used for continuous improvement but is also aimed at providing a mechanism to listen more to the members.
Many studies show evidence of financial returns from customer service improvements. A Forrester study titled “The Business Impact of Customer Experience” for example shows that a 10% improvement in a company’s customer experience score can translate into a significant increase in revenues and other benefits”. The benefits of investing in the customer service initiative at Stima Sacco have started becoming obvious to the staff and even to the members. There is improved communication, there are better interactions internally and externally, the processes have been streamlined and are more customer-focused and the word is spreading out fast. Often staff will be heard saying “I am delighted to serve you”. The gains made have been communicated and celebrated. In August 2014 the branches were voted best in internal customer service.
What is most exciting is that Stima’s leadership team has now identified customer service excellence as the core strategic pillar that will drive its growth and profitability moving forward. This is a key milestone and one that will make Stima Sacco build a reputation of serving its members with excellence and also differentiate it from other Saccos. At a recent Customer Service Improvement Committee retreat, it was evident that the Sacco is not where it hopes to be but it is certainly not where it was when this service improvement journey started.
Prepared by Lucy Kiruthu the Management Consultant and has been supporting Stima Sacco on this journey