Friendliness is a basic expectation for employees serving customers. It doesn’t cost anything and isn’t really a skill that needs to be trained. So why do we still receive unfriendly service over and over again?
I remember walking into a leading Nigerian bank in Lagos recently, the banking hall was jam packed, several people with several money matters to settle. I personally don’t like banking halls and I only go when it is absolutely necessary, I patiently stood in line of a long queue to have the attention of a customer service representative. In a few minutes I could feel the tension of people in line who were not satisfied with the way and manner these reps attended to their job, right there a drama ensued.
A lady who was being attended to couldn’t take the sluggishness of the reps, she started to voice out her displeasure, soon enough everybody joined in, the way and manner they weren’t about their work didn’t show any regard for the customers waiting in line, they ate, side talked and had this nonchalant attitude. A few more bruhahaha’s and the manager had to come settle issues and pacify customers which in my opinion wasn’t impressive or professional at all but people just compromised to allow peace
Soon after the Nigerian customer service culture was the discussion and everyone had something to say about their experiences with several customer service agents, mostly poor and in some cases appalling. I have personally experienced too many to count on both hands, the culture of negligence to customer needs is alarming in Nigeria. It is even much more pronounced with government or public establishments; the dearth of good service relation with customer or the citizen is beyond belief. It would suffice to say that given this situation; a company that has an excellent customer service culture in Nigeria today is going to profit a lot from it because Nigerians like every other people appreciate good customer service.
This brings us to the question of why this is so, why is there a lackadaisical attitude to customer service in general? Aren’t we a naturally welcoming warm and respectable people? Why can’t our traditional culture of warmth and respect be readily expressed in our market places?
- There are plenty of reasons why employees might not feel friendly. Upset customers, heavy workloads, demanding bosses, and poor products can all make an employee feel frustrated. This says nothing about what types of stress may be going on in employees’ personal lives. “Leave your problems at home” is simplistic advice that’s much easier said than done.
- Contact centers often provide a great example of a work environment that can bring many of these factors together. Agents may feel frustration sinking in when they serve irate customer after irate customer. At the same time, their boss is breathing down their neck demanding greater productivity while monitoring their every move, even bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, agents might feel powerless to solve many of the problems they encounter that are caused by defective products or poorly designed processes.
- Corruption and a wrong mindset of service: many customer service reps think their position gives them a right of ownership, a position where they can take advantage of someone who needs help. You almost can’t get anything done in Lagos today without bribing or giving something, even the gate man want s to use his power as a gateman for personal benefit, in cases where they have no choice they call customers different names “chairman, my oga, wetin dey for the boys etc”, so that he or she drops some money or change. Corruption has reduced many people to beggarly people that instead of doing their job with dignity and pride they result into attitudes that are detrimental to them and the company’s they work with.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
It starts by setting a positive example. Employees are much more likely to be friendly when they have a boss who is friendly, kind, and treats them with respect. On the other hand, gruffly telling employees to “act happier or you’ll get a memo” rarely has the desired effect.
Involve employees in finding solutions to your toughest customer service challenges. This works in two ways. First, employees feel more empowered when they are able to give meaningful input on how to serve customers better. Second, working with upset customers requires a great deal of emotional labor so fixing the problems that upset customers naturally makes the job easier.
Finally, good leadership corporately and nationally opposed to corruption is the only antidote to it to the attitude of many Nigerians today, corruption has dictated another lifestyle and mindset that is detrimental to the development of the nation at large. It has trickled down from the leadership over the years to the average citizen. Private companies in Nigeria should make every effort to imbibe strong ethical and moral values into their workers deliberately so as to shift the wrong mindsets
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Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business. You can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in as many new customers as you want, but unless you can get some of those customers to come back, your business won’t be profitable for long.
Good customer service is all about bringing customers back. And about sending them away happy – happy enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others, who may then try the product or service you offer for themselves and in their turn become repeat customers.
If you’re a good salesperson, you can sell anything to anyone once. But it will be your approach to customer service that determines whether or not you’ll ever be able to sell that person anything else. The essence of good customer service is forming a relationship with customers – a relationship that that individual customer feels that he would like to pursue.
How do you go about forming such a relationship? By remembering the one true secret of good customer service and acting accordingly; “You will be judged by what you do, not what you say.”
I know this verges on the kind of statement that’s often seen on a sampler, but providing good customer service IS a simple thing. If you truly want to have good customer service, all you have to do is ensure that your business consistently does these things:
1) Answer your phone.
Get call forwarding. or an answering service, Hire staff if you need to. But make sure that someone is picking up the phone when someone calls your business. (Notice I say “someone”. People who call want to talk to a live person, not a fake “recorded robot”.)
2) Don’t make promises unless you will keep them.
Not plan to keep them. Will keep them. Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception. If you say, “Your new bedroom furniture will be delivered on Tuesday”, make sure it is delivered on Tuesday. Otherwise, don’t say it. The same rule applies to client appointments, deadlines, etc.. Think before you give any promise – because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one.
3) Listen to your customers.
Is there anything more exasperating than telling someone what you want or what your problem is and then discovering that that person hasn’t been paying attention and needs to have it explained again? From a customer’s point of view, I doubt it. Can the sales pitches and the product babble. Let your customer talk and show him that you are listening by making the appropriate responses, such as suggesting how to solve the problem.
4) Deal with complaints.
No one likes hearing complaints, and many of us have developed a reflex shrug, saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time”. Maybe not, but if you give the complaint your attention, you may be able to please this one person this one time – and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service.
5) Be helpful – even if there’s no immediate profit in it.
The other day I popped into a local watch shop because I had lost the small piece that clips the pieces of my watch band together. When I explained the problem, the proprietor said that he thought he might have one lying around. He found it, attached it to my watch band – and charged me nothing! Where do you think I’ll go when I need a new watch band or even a new watch? And how many people do you think I’ve told this story to?
6) Train your staff (if you have any) to be always helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable.
Do it yourself or hire someone to train them. Talk to them about good customer service and what it is (and isn’t) regularly. Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so he never has to say, “I don’t know, but so-and-so will be back at…”
7) Take the extra step.
For instance, if someone walks into your store and asks you to help them find something, don’t just say, “It’s in Aisle 3”. Lead the customer to the item. Better yet, wait and see if he has questions about it, or further needs. Whatever the extra step may be, if you want to provide good customer service, take it. They may not say so to you, but people notice when people make an extra effort and will tell other people.
8) Throw in something extra.
Whether it’s a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. And don’t think that a gesture has to be large to be effective. The local art framer that we use attaches a package of picture hangers to every picture he frames. A small thing, but so appreciated.
If you apply these eight simple rules consistently, your business will become known for its good customer service. And the best part? The irony of good customer service is that over time it will bring in more new customers than promotions and price slashing ever did!