Businesses and their customers have a symbiotic relationship. They depend on each other. Businesses provide goods and services to customers whereas customers pay for the same and keep the businesses in business.
In the competitive business environment, businesses scramble for the available customers.
In other words, customers keep businesses going. Perhaps this is the reason the saying “customer is king [as well as queen]” was coined.
To win and retain customers, many businesses tend to bend over backwards to provide the best service customers can get in their respective sectors. To achieve this, many businesses invest in customer service and customer-care training to shape their staff in terms of how to handle or treat customers.
Several organisations are getting it right on the local scene. However, there are also many others who are getting it wrong. I should hasten to add that many times investment in customer service does not necessarily mean money. Attitude of the staff, especially those on the front line, is paramount. Do they have a passion? Do they know the products and services on offer? What about possible solutions to some problems customers encounter?
Naturally, like every individual, I do source services every day. These range from financial services to seeking medication in hospitals and indeed paying for goods and services.
While getting the services in various outlets, one thing I have noted is lack of passion and courtesy in their jobs among many Malawians. This is the cancer killing most businesses.
During a recent visit to my Ginnery Corner Branch of Standard Bank, a poster with a portrait of a cheering and smiling lady caught my attention. It bears the inscription: “Please claim K1 000 if I am not the first to greet you.” I am not sure how much Standard Bank has paid out in such claims, but personally I have never had a chance to claim as I am always given a warm welcome.
I took the Standard Bank gesture for granted until I undertook transactions at another commercial bank in Blantyre central business district (CDB). Firstly, while waiting for a turn on the queue, I overheard several customers grumbling that tellers were taking too long. There were less than 10 people between me and the two tellers but it took over 90 minutes to be served. What worsened the situation was that many customers were not filling their deposit/withdrawal slips until they got to the counter. I thought this was not on. However, the tellers and their supervisors seemed not to mind.
What further pierced my heart was the fact that one of the tellers, a lady, was not greeting customers and would, while customers waited to be served, be seen bending down the counter and take phone calls on her mobile phone. I thought that was discourtesy. By the way, I too was not greeted. We transacted in silence.
In the same week, at yet another bank, also in Blantyre, the banking hall was congested with few tellers serving the customers. It took the intervention of a manager, I assume from their head office, to query why few tellers were in charge. The manager pushed supervisors and others to fill the counters and serve people. I asked myself did it have to take a ‘visiting’ senior manager to realise more hands were needed?
Perhaps the most comic of them all was an experience a friend had with digital satellite television (DStv) provider, MultiChoice Malawi where he called to request that his subscription be put on hold as the power transformer in his area, somewhere in Mulanje, had been vandalised. To his shock, the customer service officer asked him: “Mwakanena ku police? [Have you reported the matter to police?]” Really? This did not add up!
Businesses should strive to empower their front office executives to have knowledge on products and services on offer.