Customer service is still talk of the town. But what, really, is it? What would you answer to the above question? Most answers revolve around what is done when we are in customers facing situations and the people in those situations. But that is just scratching the surface.
I think that since we have been talking of improving customer service/ care for three to four years now, surely we would be on top of things now as far as this problem is concerned. Word on the street says the opposite. When one has a headache it could be as a result of a problem in the arm, foot, stomach or any other part of the body for that matter.
Taking paracetamol or any other palliative is, to say the least, a kneejerk approach to what could be a serious problem. Could it be possible that we are curing symptoms, and not the ailment?
Walk into any company, preferably a bank and you will see a spruced up customer service/care department. And this is good. But what or rather to whose service, pray, are they set up for? The answer seems obvious.
Truth is whether or not there is a customer service/ care department in an organization, customer service provision is the core business of every organization. We exist to be of service to our customers, period.
To serve your customers well, you must pay great attention to the “quality” of your products/services. “Quality is fitness for use”. This implies that quality depends on the use. Whether something is of quality is determined by the customer and not just by the organization.
It is of quality when it applies to the specified needs. So a product is not of high quality because the company says that it is of high quality, but because the customers feel it is of high quality.
In relation to quality, various concepts have been developed in the recent past. Some of those concepts as; Total Quality Management (TQM) which involves participation of all employees aiming at long-term success by satisfying customers to the benefit of all employees of the organization and society.
TQM considers the whole process from design to delivery and after sales services as being important for the final utilization (quality) of a product or service. Ail the steps together determine the quality of a product, not only the production.
The quality of a product and of a service depends on the quality of its components.Front office people will only be as effective if the back office people (who do the processing) are efficient. Quality function deployment is a technique to break down a product/service in its different components to assist in the analysis of each component.
A quality assurance mechanism is necessary to ensure all planned and systematic activities, implemented within the framework of a quality system with proven reliability, to provide sufficient confidence that the organization can maintain the required quality standards.
This works best under a quality system in which management vision, objectives, policies and regulations to maintain and improve the quality of products and services. Lastly, quality should be audited. Procedures, work instructions, job descriptions should be assessed to ensure that they are adding value to the customer and the organization and to ensure that there is compliance to the same during implementation.
Before each of us pegs customer service/care to quality, we will not get it right. It is actually quite unfair and frustrating and thankless to put someone to smile, look good and make empty promises to customers and constantly face the wrath of the irate clients.
It is also bad business. Customer service should be about keeping promises and exceeding expectations in service delivery; we need to cure the disease, not the symptoms. Only then, will the smiles look truly beautiful… and you’ll get a better smile from the customer!
Sam Kebongo is a skills and business advisory services consultant. He also teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College.