As it appeared in the Daily Nation on Oct 4th2016
52 weeks in a year, companies serve their customers. 52 weeks year after year, smart company go an extra mile to serve their customers with excellence. 1 week in a year, customer focused companies reignite the customer service spark. On this first week of October, something unique happens not only here in Kenya but across the globe. Businesses take time to celebrate their frontline staff and their customers. These businesses know too well that customers are the reason they exist and that their people not the products is what differentiates one company from another.
I hope that in your interactions as a customer there is something unique that you have experienced or you will experience this week. Last week a bank customer shared last year’s memory. He seemed so intrigued that his bank went out of its way to give him a handkerchief. Though this is exciting for the customer, it may not be sustainable. Smart organizations are aware that customer service week celebrations go beyond the goodies and the merchandise given away. The week should be used as a launching pad for customer service improvements. CS Week plays an important role of shining a light on the frontend of the business. Many frontline staff find the customer service week activities stirring.
The backend of the business too is getting involved. I recall last year interacting with a staff from the IT department at an insurance company. He was handing over welcome roses to customers at the entrance of the main building. Each staff had been scheduled to do so for an hour. For some staff, the one hour doing the unusual must have seemed like a century. This week, some CEOs make time to visit call centres and pick a few customer calls. I wonder how a Safaricom caller would react if their call to 100 was answered by the CEO “Good Afternoon, this is Bob Collymore how may I help you?”.
This is a special week not only within the customer service community but also across many organizations where the week has become a companywide initiative. Many have now made it a tradition to mark the week year in year out with both internally focused and externally focused activities. I recently spoke to a few customer service managers and they confirmed that the engagements during the week have been value adding. In some cases, the ripple effect is felt throughout the 51 weeks that follow and beyond. The level of creativity during these celebrations has improved significantly. This will make it difficult for ICSKenya to select the innovation award winner for the most creative celebrations. If well thought out, the CSWeek spark can have a long lasting impact.
4 years ago, the first customer service week dinner was held. I look back to this with nostalgia, the customer service fire has continued to spread out through many avenues and the community has grown. Unfortunately, only a few sectors have joined the bandwagon. The hospitality, retail, financial services sectors and part of public service have been most receptive. Many other organizations especially small and medium sized ones continue to lag behind. It is likely that some organizations are not even aware of what exceptional customer service really looks like. Many have failed to be deliberate about the overall end-to-end customer experience. Possibly if we continue to have the customer service conversations, we will see a Kenya transformed through service excellence across all sectors. Happy Customer Service week! Let us keep the fire burning!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy