We have all experienced this. You call a service provider and the number will not go through or will ring and no one answers. Similarly, you call an organisation to make an inquiry and when the number goes through, you are transferred to more than three people and you have to keep repeating your story every time a different person gets on the line.
Welcome to the world of unhappy customers.
After visiting my optician to change my glasses early this year, I was asked to collect my new ones the following day at 3 pm. The sales representative had given me a business card and I found it prudent to call at 2 pm the following day to confirm my glasses were ready for collection. The fact that I could not get through on the telephone was annoying enough, but to arrive and find that the glasses were not ready was absolutely frustrating.
Besides trying to explain to me why my glasses were not ready for collection, the sales representative apologised because the telephone number on their business card was less one digit. This incident is a constant reminder of how high we have to jump to keep customers happy.
In the past, people stayed with their service providers because in a lot of cases, there were no alternative providers. In todayís competitive and dynamic business environment, consumers have more choices than ever before.
Competitive advantage based on product and price is no longer sustainable. The secret remains working towards making your customer feel special, at every opportunity. Shifting emphasis on the quality of service offered remains the secret weapon for staying ahead of the competition.
A call to inform me that my glasses would not be ready for collection as earlier advised is all that was required to turn me into a lifetime customer and a passionate non-salaried advertiser of the firmís products and services.
Research conducted by Purdue University (1998), established that 76 per cent of all customers would buy again if they had no problem while 89 per cent would buy if they had a problem but customer service had exceeded their expectation in resolving it.
What customers want is friendly, accessible, efficient and seamless service. They just want their problems solved, or their questions answered, however complex, without having to chase around different departments or talk to several different people. Quite simply, they want you to do what you say you are going to do, do it when you say youíre going to do it, and keep them informed if you are not able to keep the promise.
Some firms have since realised that the key to retaining a customer doesnít start and end with clinching the deal, but must concern itself with keeping and improving the relationship with the customer. As a result, they are constantly evaluating their business operations, to ensure they support the kind of relationships that keeps customers coming back. Thatís why some companies appoint account managers to specifically attend to all the requests of key customers to ensure that their requests are processed with speed and precision.
These customer based firms are re-organizing themselves and their processes around the client and as a result have increasingly focused on the call centre as a significant component in their strategy of customer acquisition and retention.
Call centres are in existence because companies have recognized the importance of customer contact in improving profitability and overall business growth. They view call centres as strategic business assets and not just a communications node.
However, success of the contact centre not only depends on investment in relevant technology, but effective customer oriented business processes managed by highly skilled staff to support service delivery.
Customers are very sensitive when they suspect the agent taking the call is not skilled and will most likely switch to another service provider when its taking too long to deliver expected results. Ensure every customer contact with any segment of the business creates a memorable experience for the client by providing frontline staff with requisite customer service skills.
No matter the industry, customers want to feel special. Ensure you keep them informed. If there is an expectation that will not be honoured you need to let them know as soon as possible. They understand that other factors beyond your control would affect your promise and they will most probably understand and continue buying your products or services.
Alice Muigai is the CEO, Flexi Personnel Ltd
PREPARE KENYA FOR OUTSOURCING
Business Daily March 13, 2008 Read article online
By: Alice Muigai.
The world has become one big market, and we are all customers of and suppliers to it. Outsourcing is the power behind this integration. China and India have been identified as the fastest growing economies.
They have a GNP growth rate of seven per cent and eight per cent respectively and they are predicted to overtake the US by 2050. Part of this growth has been fuelled by the migration of manufacturing to China and the outsourcing of white collar jobs to call centres and software houses in Bangalore.
Call centres have been cited as the boiler rooms for modern business as well as job creation engines that have the potential to be the single largest employer for young graduates in urban areas.
Although Kenya currently has infrastructure hurdles that stand between it and this industry, the evolution of the industry in Kenya proves we have serious intentions that call for the development of training programmes that will facilitate knowledge to support this industry.
Access to market share will require convincing anyone thinking about a call centre in Kenya that they will be able to hire staff and keep on hiring staff long after their first year in the business.
As todayís boardroom debates all over the world focus on outsourcing, Kenya should be working towards convincing companies that it can offer satisfactory levels of customer care quality and telesales expertise.
We must bear in mind the fact that outsourcing the care of the businessesí most valuable assets, its customers, to an overseas customer service or telesales operation is an enormous decision that our prospective clients will have to make.
It is common knowledge that customer service representatives in countries like Kenya can read current account balances off computer screens just as efficiently as UK- or US-based agents.
What is not proven is whether we can compete as favourably for more advanced phone-based services, such as outbound telesales or inbound/outbound customer lifecycle management services. The investment that has already gone into the call centre industry in Kenya has been enormous.
It has taken time, effort and a huge amount of financial resources, including subsidies from the government, scheduled to start this month until the undersea cable is available in the region.
The industry has been identified as one of the pillars of economic growth and it is estimated to bring in over $200 million in the next six years. In preparing Kenya for the gold rush, we must seriously invest in the delivery of requisite skills that will enable human capital deal with the complex data management and human resource issues that feature in the industry.
It is widely recognised that it is easier to train people on procedures than in underlying customer service behaviours. We must guard ourselves against falling into the trap of training people what to say rather than how to say it.
Skills training will have a major impact in positioning Kenya as a preferred outsourcing destination. We must keep in mind the fact that customers will never remember what we said, but how we said it.
Excelling in managing customers is the future of this business. Various studies on the industry suggest that alongside investment in hardware, software and recruitment, improved spending on training at all levels could yield significant benefits. Training needs to focus on providing a superior customer service that exceeds expectations always.
Ongoing training will be required to go beyond simple call handling, product knowledge and IT systems. There is need to pay equal attention to soft skills training in areas such as assertiveness, anger and stress management, self-esteem building and effective listening.
Predicted growth projections in the industry will also require multi-skilled agents who will not only handle a standard set of calls but also respond to emails, help customers navigate websites besides dealing with a host other customer requests.
These require developed customer engagement that will allow us to participate competitively in a dynamic global business environment. We need to get busy producing and preparing employees with the right mix of skills for contact centres.
We should also be quick to learn from the challenges our predecessors in the West have encountered, and specifically high turnover. We must be cautious that we do not assimilate newly trained agents into the call centres much like showing new swimmers the trick , handing them instruction manuals, and then sending them to their first race.
Against this background, there is need for transition training and coaching. This will ensure that new agents gain the right momentum to successfully stay the course and ensure Kenya gets a sizeable share of the gold.