As it appeared in the Daily Nation on July26th 2016
While heading Customer Service at the local office of an international security services provider, we ran a campaign themed “our customers pay our salaries”. When we launched the campaign, the theme required no explanation. It was simple and clear. Almost ten years later, this simple message seems not to make sense to all employees. Customer service remains a challenge in many organizations. What are we not doing right?
As I have interacted with many organizations, I have identified glaring gaps in the customer service agenda. These gaps are multifaceted and a major one is on the people aspect. Starting all the way from recruitment, some organizations do not give adequate thought to the quality of people they hire. Small businesses especially are struggling in this area. Every business leader and owner must ask himself a number of questions before hiring a new staff. Does this person have what it takes to get the job done? Do they demonstrated the right attitude? Can they communicate effectively?
Another glaring gap is in the area of induction or what others call orientation or on-boarding. New employees learn about their organizations and their new role through this process. While some organizations have an excellent induction process, others just let new employees find their way. Smart companies should be keen on the induction process and seek to walk their new staff through the job requirements. There is need for the role to be well articulated and the expectations well laid out. Staff need to be made aware of their new organization, especially its values, its vision, key priorities, its customers and its promise to its customers. The staff also need to know how their performance will be measured and the length of the probation period. By supporting the staff during their initial engagement, they can reach their full potential much faster.
Staff training is another glaring gap. A few days ago, it took almost an hour for the staff to take our orders at a city restaurant chain. I wondered if the staff have any sort of training. Do the waiters recognize that they are the sales people? Training can make a big different in how we perceive and serve our customers. Unfortunately, many organizations are not keen on training, for some training is done for the sake of ticking a box whilst others have the wrong approach to training. Organizations that equip their staff with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes are able to see results in terms of improved performance. Most staff may not be aware of how customer interactions need to be managed. Training should not be a once off event but a continuous process that managers take charge off. Every day is indeed a staff training opportunity.
Finally, rewarding good performance is another area where most organizations are not doing very well. As a result, many organizations continue to struggle with the customer service challenge. Focusing on the people aspect end to end is the surest way to remain customer focused. This is only possible if the leadership is fully committed to maintaining the best team.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy