As it appeared in the Daily Nation on July5th 2016
How would you describe the state of customer service in Kenya? Is it getting better or is it getting worse? Are customer today happier than they were a decade ago? Are companies more focused on their customers than they were 5 years ago? Are staff keener on making the customer experience a little better? Are leaders fully committed to excellence in customer service or are they still paying lip service? Is the financial impact of customer service excellence evident on the top line and bottom line? These questions often go through my mind. Though I am confident that our customer service levels are not where they were in the 90s, I am cognizant of the fact that much more still remains to be done.
Notable efforts have gone into improving the customer experience. In the last 2 decades, thousands of staff have been trained on basic customer service skills and attitudes. Many customer service charters have been written, launched and pinned to the walls. Several state of the art contact centres have been established both by those in the private and public sector. Customer service channels have grown significantly. Many people have joined the profession, some out of choice others out of need. Many customer service policies and procedures have been written. Many promises have been made and many have been broken. Information technology has altered the experience. Finally, many companies and individuals alike have bagged excellence awards that they proudly display in their offices. Going by this it is no longer business as usual; the focus on the customer has been in both the public and the private sector.
One perspective that continues to miss in these customer service debates is the voice of the customer. Where is the voice of the customer in all these changes? What are the customers really saying? Are they happier, are they more satisfied, are they more loyal because of the changes that have taken place? Or are they ignoring the efforts that companies have put in and continue to be more demanding? Are they expecting more for less? Are they more powerful today because of the wider selection and are holding companies hostage? Though the voice of the customer may not be in the public domain, many companies are swimming in customer feedback. Customers are today more willing than ever before to share their feedback with the hope that it will be taken seriously. As the customer service field continues to advance, several questions remain answered. However, one question has had a clear answer, the leadership question. The state of customer service only improves when the leaders are fully committed to lead the way. Customer service is not an afterthought or a nice to have. The needs of the customers are meant to drive the business strategy and a deliberated focus on the customer must be seen in the culture of the organization. When the leadership is fully sold out to customer service excellence, the results are evident. I believe the main challenge facing our customer service today is the ability of our leaders to manage a new generation of staff and a new generation of customers. It will be exciting to look at the customer experience 25 years from now when the current crop of teenagers will be leading the agenda in their organizations. Will it get better or will it get worse?
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on email@example.com/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy