As good customer service in Rwanda has become the great topic and an important challenge for both the private and public institutions, many think it needs big and expensive strategies for its achievement.
The important thing to remember is that small and seemingly insignificant details have a major impact on service delivery.
Most average organizations ignore or overlook minor customer inconveniences but the fact is that organizations that focus on small little details are more capable of improving on their services.
Customer service is all about details. Sometimes as a customer, you will realize that it is the most insignificant element that draws your attention.
It might just be the greeting of the staff or a simple “thank you” from a service provider that keeps you loyal to a certain number of shops you go to.
Some of those details may be as simple as well dressed and mannered employees, clean bathrooms or something that adds value to your experience as a customer.
If you are in a hotel for instance, it is the small details such as the chocolate or sweet on the hotel pillow in the evening that will amaze your customers. If you are in a restaurant, it might be the warm bread you serve on your breakfast. It could even be the fresh cocktail you offer on the arrival of your customers.
In other words, no matter what service you are into, the simple gesture, a last-minute delivery to a valued customer; the fulfillment of a promise, the smile, the warm welcome and “Thank you for having complained” from attentive staff that matter.
It is one of these simple details that impressed me last week as I was coming back from a training session I conducted in Libreville, Gabon.
At the airport, I met a very smartly dressed woman at the security checkpoint. She was so well dressed that I thought she was an air hostess. She was very friendly, courteous, helpful and smiling to all the passengers.
I couldn’t stop myself from complementing her and asking her what could have been the secret of such an improved service (I have been twice to Gabon and I never saw such friendliness at the airport before).
For your information, this was around 10.30 pm and this awkward time is usually the time many people blame heaven and earth for being obliged to work.
She jokingly replied by saying, “this is probably due to the change of our uniform; ever since we’ve been giving such beautiful uniforms, our confidence has been boosted and this has, I think improved positively on our services”.
I thought about her response and realized at which point business owners sometimes spend huge sums of money on big strategies just to realize that these, “big” strategies are not the real answers to their poor service delivery.
You need to know that the recipe for exceptional service boils down to small details.
When you want to instill a customer service culture in your organization, make every person in your organization be part of it.
Sit together with your team players and analyze the causes of your poor service delivery. As they are in direct contact with customers, they see things you do not see yourself, or hear comments from customers that you might not directly hear.
We all know here in Rwanda a number of theories on what are the causes of service decline. Some people blame it on a shortage of skilled workers; some others blame it on the lack of competition. There are even some who blame customers for keeping quiet and accepting sub standard service.
But I really think that poor customer service is the product of workplace practices. It is chiefly a lack of training for front-line workers, low employee satisfaction and motivation but also poor mindset and attitudes.
If we look again at the example above, we can understand that employee satisfaction is an important antecedent of high quality customer service.
When you take time to listen to your employees, you will understand that the poor services they offer are sometimes caused by the heat in the office or even the seating arrangements. Yes they are details but they have an impact on staff’s mood and services.
Remember for instance that just a simple new stylish uniform can change the entire image of a company. Another simple detail that should not be overlooked is staff identification badges.
Wearing nametags can create a sense of responsibility of your employees. Employees with badges know that if they offer poor services, the customer can report them and this unfortunately brings them to be alert and pay attention to customers.
As part of your 2010 resolutions, take time to solve the small details first. In your plan for this year, consider what small details you can provide or improve on to make your business stand out in the hearts and minds of your customers and of your employees.
The author is a customer service consultant working in Rwanda