As it appeared in the Daily Nation on October 9th 2018
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

Last week, I lost count of the number of messages received. Of interest were the messages received to appreciate me as a customer. Many companies seemed to have joined in the week long celebrations this year. Some of the messages took me back to the customer service milestones that I have watched companies make over the years. A few messages upset me as they reminded me of unresolved service issues with certain organizations. In addition to the messages, the week was filled with lots of fun fair. Some of the fun activities were part of the overall customer service strategy to remind staff of the need to focus on sustainable service excellence. Unfortunately, other fun activities might have overshadowed the need to focus on the customer all year long adding little or no value to sustainable service excellence. As I reflect on the customer service week, I wonder how many organizations have made a deliberate effort to make service excellence their way of life?

In the market place, there is some confusion about what customer service is and what it is not. Anyone who has interacted with me knows that I prefer looking at customer service from different angles. First, there is need to focus on end-to-end customer service excellence driven by a committed and involved leadership and supported by the corporate level strategy. Secondly, each department must own up to its customer service responsibility. Finally, individual responsibility is crucial at all levels from the corner office to the front line staff. I believe that the main outcome of customer service excellence is making our customers feel great about being our customers. This needs to happen at every point of interaction. When our customers feel great, they come back and tell others about their positive experiences with us.

Making customers feel great is only possible when the entire organization is focused on the specific needs of its customers. These needs are both functional and emotional. Customer service excellence requires organizations to be deliberate about meeting both needs. The emotional needs such as respect, recognition, reliability have a major contribution to satisfaction. The functional needs relate to the product or actual service required; these too need to be of high quality. To connect emotionally with our customers, we need to first meet their basic needs.

Smart companies must choose to make service excellence a way of life and not a one off annual event. Every minute, every day and every week is an opportunity to better serve our customers. Organizations must weave in service excellence into the core of their existence, their purpose and their culture. The overall corporate strategy, the leadership, the people, the processes, the performance measures, the technology in use must all be in support of the desired service excellence culture.

Unless we are intentional about making service excellence our way of life, having celebrations during the customer service week year after year or simply sending a “happy customer service week” SMS to customers might be all in vain. Let us choose to make every week a service excellence week! Be deliberate about the end-to-end customer experience!

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy