Psst – here's the secret to SA’s economic revival!

2014-05-19 19:16

I will tell you right here and now what I believe can change things around for us here in SA: it’s customer service, and not just any. Excellent customer service is the only way forward.

Is there a lack of appreciation of the financial value of excellent customer service? Well, don’t be fooled into thinking that it is a ‘softer issue’ because it’s not. Customer service is the golden thread that runs through an entire business.

It’s actually a science. It requires meticulous planning to deliver the desired experience for the customer time after time. Many years ago we may have said: ‘Most of the customers are happy, there not too many complaints.’ But thanks to developments in technology, customer services can now be measured fairly accurately.

In the typical business environment the inflow of revenue (sales) and the outflow (expenses) take centre stage. Is this wrong? Of course not! However it’s what happens in between the in-and-outflow that can revolutionise the financial performance of the business. Customer service is all too often that neglected link.

Here are some of my views acquired through personal experience:

Firstly, you have to know your product or service. And you have to be able to explain it better than what the competitors can explain theirs. It is just so much better when you can give the accurate and professional answers there and then. It saves time and as we all know, time is money.

Put the needs of the source of income first. Now let’s unmask this source: ah, the customer. No customers, no money, no profit, no business! Plan around the needs of customers and anticipate it. As Woolworths has proven over many years - customers will even be prepared to pay a little more if they believe that the quality of the product justifies it.

Customer service is also about long term thinking. Surely the idea behind the creation of a business is to grow and be sustainable. And here’s a little secret: Look after your talented staff and the 3 months in business will become 3 years, 30 years and beyond. (I can say 300 years but I doubt that you will be around to appreciate the fruits of your labour)

Customer service is also common sense. The small details are often taken for granted. People need to be trained to be thoughtful; it requires alertness to a situation and readiness to respond to the need.

And finally, good customer service is all about having good manners. We must be customer servants. Greet people politely and have an empathetic ear. Make them feel comfortable and welcome. Smile if you see them face to face or put a smile in your voice if the contact is telephonically. It is something that is seemingly so insignificant, but you will be amazed what a difference it can (and will) make!

So customer service may be a science but certainly not rocket science.

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