In one of my entries late last year I said that if customer care is defined as a system in a business venture that seeks to maximise customers’ satisfaction in terms of service and customer service is the process of providing goods and services to consumers, then here in Malawi many organisations are developing a culture of ‘customer scare’ and ‘customer disservice’.
Now, two weeks ago one of my friends on the social networking platform, Facebook, an esteemed marketing and sales professional, posted on his wall his satisfying customer care experience. His was a free but powerful lesson on what customer-care and customer service are all about. Many who commented on the post wished the same happened closer home.
Read the post: “Talk of efficiency. Today [January 25 2012], I have had a good and practical lesson. I am buying a car from Japan [online]. I pick up a phone and talk to a….sales and marketing executive, to verify the status and condition of the car. I agree to the terms given to me on the phone. In less than 10 minutes, I receive both the invoice and sales agreement in my e-mail. I now have all the evidence why the Japanese economy continues to grow. It starts at individual level.”
From this experience, one lesson I learnt is that the Japanese mean business. They know that they are in competition; hence, they treat each and every customer as the king or queen they ought to be. They know they are in business where competition is stiff.
“If we could just emulate this!!!” Exclaimed yet another commentator on the post.
Ironically, on the same post, someone complained shared a not-so-good experience from one of the usual suspects, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom).
This gentleman applied for an electricity connection and was told it would cost K600 000 (about $1 764). Yet, two months down the road, so he said, a quotation is yet to be prepared. I am sure he is dealing with Escom and not the parallel or so-called ‘Escom II’. Why the delay? “The boss [at Escom] is never in office. I’m paying back the loan, my business is yet to take off.” Shame!
The Escom experience is, but one of the many cases where service providers in Malawi take customers for granted. For example, besides delayed connections, it is not unusual to see electricity or water consumers going hours or, in some cases, days without light or drops of water despite paying bills. At the end of the day, there is no notice of servic nterruption or indeed an apology. In rare cases, if the notices come, it is often too late and after customers have suffered.
It is the same story in the telecommunications industry where some phone network operators also need to improve the customer service in call centres so that they live up to their names and not be the “customer trauma centres” some of them have become.
Some of the responses customers are given for their queries in some of the so-called ustomer care centres leave one wondering what happened to courtesy and whether the officers realise that it is the customers who pay their salaries!
However, from the look of things, it appears not all is lost. There is some light at the end of the tunnel if experiences some readers have shared with me are anything to go by.
For the record, I also had a pleasant surprise on February 1 2013 when one of the phone network operators from whom I have just bought a new line called me to welcome me to the network. I said wow! That is customer care not ‘customer scare!’ The call centre ecutive asked me such questions as how I have found their service in the three or so days of my connection, areas I would recommend improvement and the like. My prayer is for the operator to maintain and surpass the standards set even when the network’s subscribers hit millions.
We need to learn from the Japanese model of customer care and efficiency if we are to grow this economy. Good customer care and customer service starts with a positive attitude.