As it appeared in the Daily Nation on January 10th 2017
We walk into a shop on the 4th day of 2017. There is one staff leaning on the front counter. She says nothing and just stares at us. It seems we do not deserve a welcome, a greeting or even a happy New Year wish. Possibly, she has profiled us and we do seem to fit her kind of shoppers. We continue looking around and she continues staring. We are the only shoppers in the small shop. I can no longer stand the silence and opts to greet her. She responds with a blank face and continues staring. From the comfort of the counter, she responds to other questions. The shop is part of a chain that sells women’s clothes and is situated at one of the newly opened malls in Nairobi. Does this staff really care or is she having a bad week after the holiday shopping craze? Does the management care that this staff does not really care?
This experience is not unique. On the same day at another shop, the staff impolitely responds by saying that he is the expert and we should trust what he says about their products. At yet another shop a staff advices us without shame that we can get what we are looking for elsewhere at a cheaper price. These sort of experiences are not limited to retail outlets. At a restaurant, we are discourteously asked to move tables because the table we choose is reserved. I wonder why there is no reserved notice to communicate this. On any other day, the story may not be quite different. Many frontline staff seem not to know how important their role is in overall business success. They seem not to know that their actions generate word of mouth either positive or negative. They may be unaware that their actions will result to the customer coming back or walking away forever.
I also wonder if business owners and business leaders care enough to know that some of their frontline do not really care about customers. Have the businesses bothered to define the kind of customer experience they would like their customers to go through? Do they conduct mystery shopping? Is the proprietor of the clothes shop or sports house for example interested in what we went through or is that the usual? Do these businesses have in their operations manuals procedures such as – welcome the customer with a smile, be ready to help the customer, offer to help the customer, thank the customer etc. If they have this all well-defined and communicated, why is there a gap between what the business desires and what is happening in the frontline?
It is well known in customer service circles that staff only care about customers if they feel the company cares enough. Do the business owners and leaders care about their overall customer experience? Do they care about their staff as internal customers? Do they hire right? Do they keep promises made to staff and to customers? Have they created a healthy work culture? Is the culture focused on service excellence? Do the leaders recognize good performance and shun incompetence? Every business hoping to gain a competitive edge through the customer experience needs answers to these weighty questions. If your frontline staff care enough, the results will be evident in the revenues and in customer loyalty!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy