Lately, customer service has been a song on replay with many firms doing their best to invest in it and provide the best they can to make the experience of their clients worthwhile. At Tigo Rwanda, a telecommunications firm, Abdi Simwaya is the Regional Service Sector manager, his business card reads Customer Retention Manager. With over 12 years experience Simwaya, explained to Education Times’ Collins Mwai the various aspects of his job.
What roles fill the day of a customer service manager?
My responsibilities involve overseeing the customer care services provided to our clients. I ensure that clients are satisfied with the service they receive from the firm and that any problems they may have are addressed by the agents. I conduct research and go through reports to get analysis on areas where customers would need more attention. At times, I visit clients to ensure they are satisfied with the level of service offered or attend to issues they may be experiencing. It is more of monitoring and evaluation.
To be a customer service manager, what academic credentials should you have?
Personally, I studied Information Technology at university but I have since gained experience in this field over the years. I have also taken several trainings in customer service which have enabled me to do my job well.
I would advise anyone interested in this career to take up either a degree in public relations or sales and marketing. These two courses teach you most of what you’d require to join and perform well in the profession.
Academics aside, what else qualifies one for the job?
One should have the right attitude for the job. Most people know the customer needs and but perform without the right attitude. How you interact with people is important, too; your ability to listen and understand people’s complaints, suggestions and queries. With this, you can deal with people from all walks of life.
Time management is also of essence. It’s not good, for example, to spend so much time on one client while others are waiting.
You have been doing this for more than a decade, what are the changing trends?
Customer service is becoming more and more formal, unlike in the past when it was done informally or by any member of an organisation. Nowadays firms dedicate an entire department to customer service.
Customers are also sure of what they want; they speak up when they don’t like the services or products unlike in the past when most didn’t speak out much. This has necessitated professionalisation of customer care services. For instance, organisations like Rwanda Development Board have customer care as one of their key concerns.
Can you work in another industry say, in hospitality?
Sure I can. Actually, I gained most of my experience working with major restaurants and a coffee shop. The knowledge and skills gained can be applied in most industries’ customer service departments. It is also a universal profession in that I can work in anywhere in the world.
What moments make the profession worth it?
Among the best moments in the profession is meeting different types of clients and learning from them. From their suggestions, compliments, complaints and feedback, you acquire a lot of information.
It is also encouraging seeing your clients satisfied with your products, services or brand because of your efforts.
What challenges should new entrants expect?
Once in a while you might have to deal with difficult clients who might not be too eager to understand procedures and processes or not truthful on the issues affecting them.
What is the hierarchy at work?
The first contact a client makes with the customer service department is the agent. If it requires further attention, it is handed over to the supervisor and some matters get to the customer service manager.
How does one rise up the ranks?
In customer service management, progress is mostly from experience accumulated over the years. Following up on daily routines, procedures and processes enable you to understand the profession and perform well.
Another way to get ahead is to take part in customer service trainings that are held often, the knowledge gained helps you grow and develop.
What would cause the fall of a customer service manager?
Each time you fail to conduct a thorough follow-up on client’s issues you are prepping for failure. Managers also fail when they lack team work spirit or when their teams are not playing their roles. Subordinate performance greatly contributes to the overall performance. As a manager you should be able to manage and ensure your team is up to standard. Dishonesty can also cause a customer service manager to fail. If a task requires a week, be honest about it, don’t lie that it will take two days only to frustrate the client.
What last advice do you have for those interested in this work?
Always remember that the customer is always king. Focus on understanding clients needs and requirements and you will have a relationship with them. Learn what makes them happy or frustrated. Try to stay informed by reading about customer care from magazines, journals and online sources. We are in an information age so don’t remain in an island of ignorance.