As it appeared in the Daily Nation on Sept 27th2016
Every day, millions of customer interactions happen. They happen across a multitude of channels. In addition to the traditional face-to-face interactions, there are tons of telephone interactions, email interactions and off course the fastest growing form of interactions happening online. During these interactions, staff working in the frontline are expected to take charge and make the customer experience worth coming back for. Many of these staff are doing an exceptional job; they put in extra effort to serve all customers including trying to sort out the most difficult situations.
There is the waiter who apologizes for the chef’s mistake. The sales floor staff or store keeper who takes all the beating for a breakdown of the supply chain process. There is the receptionist who takes the wrath of customers that the manager has kept waiting. The cabin crew who has no answer to our question but still offers to help. There is the call center staff who have to deal with the misdoings of others when the banking systems are down, power is off or internet is down. They have to remain calm throughout the interaction. These staff know that remaining calm and being courteous is the right thing to do not because the call is being recorded but because the customer is the reason they have a job. There is the caretaker or the security who has no feedback from the property owner or the property manager but still tries to be at your service. All these and many more are examples of frontline staff putting in some extra effort in everyday interactions.
Overall, around the globe and especially here in Kenya customer experiences have improved over the years. Unfortunately, these improvements have not matched the ever-rising customer expectations. There are still many gaps that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, as customers we are too preoccupied with the incidences of poor service that we fail to recognize the frontline staff that are doing an exceptional job. In our reaction to service gone bad, we fail to make it a teachable moment for the frontline staff. We fail to ask for the chef or the manager and choose to pick a fight with the waiter. We fail to ask the caretaker for the property manager’s contact details. We fail to tell the receptionist thank you for her regular updates regarding the manager who is busy finalizing on an urgent report. Above all, we fail to recognize instances of exceptional service that would make our experiences even better.
Next week is the Customer Service Week celebrated globally by many organizations. What if as customers we take this as an opportunity to appreciate the frontline staff? At the least greet or share a smile with the security guard, bank teller, waiter or the supermarket cashier. Say a hearty thank you to the Kenya Power call center staff. Remember to wish the cleaner a good morning or a lovely evening or wave at the police controlling traffic. Better still consider sending your customer service staff to the CSWeek dinner that coincides with the world smile day on Oct 7th. If we all reached out to the thousands of frontline staff out there, we would take the customer experiences one notch higher. Let us together encourage the frontline staff!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy