It is no secret that being appreciated makes people feel good. For many organizations in Kenya, the beginning of October gives impetus to devote time and resources into giving customers the royal treatment through clever treats and giveaways. After all, Customer Service Week is the most natural time to create positive associations to the axiom- the customer is king.
Customer Service Week 2018
According to the Institute of Customer Experience in Kenya (ICX-Kenya), Customer Service Week is a week-long opportunity for service-oriented companies to highlight the importance of customer service excellence in their institutions. Customer Service Week (CS Week) takes place annually during the first full week of October. Organizations that participate in Customer Service Week campaigns conduct special activities to emphasize the vital role that great customer experiences play in successful business practice. In 2018, the global Customer Service Week theme was “Excellence happens here” whereas the running theme for Kenya was “Sustaining Customer Experience Excellence.” The running themes during the national customer service week 2018 enthused organizations to keep customer experience excellence top of mind.
In particular, battery manufacturer, Chloride Exide won the hearts of many Kenyans when they tied their CS Week initiative to breast cancer awareness through a highly entertaining campaign. The male staff of the company, led by the Group CEO, literally walked a day in women’s shoes when they ditched their suits for dresses and heels. The company shared the hilarious images of the male employees clad in female attire and donning makeup on social media, effectively setting the internet on fire. The post was shared over 900 times on Facebook and received several compliments from customers who were impressed with the thoughtful campaign.
To mention, Perpetual Mati commented on the post: “ I’m on the floor. Very thoughtful of y’all. I love that you went all the way lipstick, nail polish and all. Thank you for the solidarity on women health!”
Maurice Kiilu Muli commented on Twitter: “ Hey Chloride Exide, Congratulations for this selfless action from your team. As we stand in solidarity with women worldwide on this #CancerAwarenessMonth #CancerCongress”
Finally, Lydia Mukhongo stated: “Chloride Exide you have nailed it. Thank you for supporting women’s health.”
Marshall McLuhan opined that the most significant thing concerning media is not the content that it carries, but instead, it is the impact of the medium used- in terms of influencing how we think and behave- that matters. In essence, the way content is delivered is more important at affecting our state of mind than the content itself. Similarly, Uses and Gratification theory argues that people consume media differently based on the satisfaction that they wish to derive from them. Chloride Exide shared their message on Facebook and Twitter – mediums that amplify relationship building and information sharing on a global scale. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter allow for interactions between customers and organizations to happen in real time. This facilitates continual dialogue, building trust and interactions with the right audiences which can instill customer loyalty.
In today’s highly competitive environment, customer focus is very important and products and services are usually designed with them in mind. This is because the ability of an organization to attract or retain customers is vital to its success and profitability. A customer has one decision to make when they come into contact with any brand: Spend their resources on it or seek elsewhere if they perceive that they don’t get enough value. As a result, businesses need to be innovative in order to attract and retain new and existing customers respectively. It is very difficult to find a company that is successful without having great customer service.
Customer experiences and customer service in Kenya have improved a great deal compared to a decade ago, especially with the advent of social media. For instance, in 2006 one lady in Nairobi had a nasty experience with one of the top courier companies in the country. The company failed to deliver her very important packages to Kisumu and Mombasa on time. In addition, they failed to do anything about that mishap. They failed to apologize and failed to understand why it was important to her. In today’s landscape, such a cavalier attitude to customer issues would run companies to the ground. Whereas in 2006 such a customer’s avenues for redress would include sending a customer complaint letter repeatedly within official working hours to no avail, today’s customer is faced with myriad multichannel options, 24/7 company availability and dedicated social media handles to handle customer queries and complaints in the shortest time possible lest they risk losing business. We are living in a time when every issue grabs public attention. Customers tell their friends about their experiences with an organization and social media has made it easier to broadcast whether their experience was enjoyable, easy or a nightmare. Negative sentiment towards an organization can dent a company’s image and they can’t afford to ignore it.
Case in point, a popular restaurant in Nairobi, Olive Restaurant, faced backlash in social media mid this year, when a customer claimed on Facebook to have been discriminated against by a waiter. The woman alleged in a Facebook Group with over 108, 000 members that Olive Restaurant discriminated against her because she was breastfeeding in public. She claimed that the restaurant staff ordered here to go to the washrooms to finish breastfeeding, away from the curious glances of other customers. The rant on social media resulted in public outrage that spilled into a protest march against the restaurant by women activists. In the wake of the social media storm, the management of the restaurant was forced to issue an apology regarding the whole incidence despite an initial reluctance to respond. Evidently, the adverse ripple effects of negative sentiment is detrimental to a company’s reputation and profitability. In addition, it creates opportunities for competitors to capture and retain new customers (Klaus, 2014).
The Customer Experience Revolution
In the digital era, customers and industries are changing. Over the past two decades, increasing innovations such as internet and mobile penetration, global accessibility, data analytics and cloud applications have dramatically changed our everyday lives. In tandem with this, shifting demographics, for instance the increasing influence of millennials, has a profound effect on customer expectations. This places a demand on companies to shift from using traditional and repetitive methods of advertising and selling, to integrating technology, customer input, online exchanges and information sharing to transform how businesses and customers interact.
Customer experience has to do with how customers perceive the interactions that they have with a company. An interaction refers to a two-way exchange between you and the customer, for instance via navigating the website, talking to a company representative, buying a product and using a product. By taking such steps, the customer is then able to make judgement on whether or not your company is easy to do business with, meets their needs and is enjoyable to work with. The research company Forrester’s website describes good customer experience as having three qualities: it is fun, easy and useful. It uncovers both explicit and hidden customer needs.
Great customer experiences is the only sustainable competitive advantage. In today’s world, leading companies understand that how they deliver their products and services to customers, needs to be just as important as what they deliver. Research shows that improving customer experience may contribute to customer loyalty, increased employee engagement, increased revenue and reduced costs within two to three years. In view of this, it behooves an organization to consider the customer at the center of the business.
Leading Companies Forge Ahead
The number one mobile operator in Kenya, Safaricom Limited, outlines customer experience excellence (CXX) as one of its core strategic pillars. This is very telling considering that Forbes magazine recently named Safaricom as the best employer in Africa and 67th in the world. Goldermier Opiyo, Head of Customer Operations at Safaricom asserts that service excellence and building trust is key in interacting with their internal customers (employees) and external customers. Safaricom has identified customer experience excellence as its core marketing strategy for brand and service differentiation.
To enhance its leadership position in the market, Safaricom is committed to delivering a superior and differentiated customer experience grounded on four key aspects, summarized under the acronym “CARE”. CARE covers the following areas:
i. Connectivity that is strong and secure.
ii. Always excellent value by utilizing Big Data to provide personalized solutions.
iii. Real-time relevant rewards through gamification activities, reward and loyalty programs.
iv. Easy and instant access to Safaricom products and services e.g. apps which offer a flexible way to manage and monitor services online.
Evidently, Safaricom is an organization that pays a lot of attention in making sure that their customer is properly served. Because of its strategic importance, the company measures and tracks the effectiveness of CXX initiatives. Safaricom uses the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to monitor customer satisfaction and the benefits of their CXX initiatives has continually been seen in their customer satisfaction scores. For instance, in 2017, Safaricom set ongoing NPS targets to be the leading telco service provider by a margin of 5% against competitors for their consumer customers. The company enjoyed an 8% margin over their nearest competitor and they attributed this to using targeted customer experience initiatives and successful promotions. Notably, Safaricom realized a 20% profit increase in their net income for 2018 to a record KES 55.3 Billion. For a global brand like Safaricom to set standards in customer experience excellence and at the same time collect record breaking profits; is the best business case why customer experience should be the primary focus for businesses.
Jannet Atika, Customer Operations Director at Safaricom states, “Business starts with the customer. If it doesn’t start with the customer, even what you are chasing will not be delivered.” The epitome of customer experience is when your customer is not only satisfied, but becomes your advocate. In a highly competitive market, one director of customer experience and insight states that customer experience is the differentiator. “It’s all about how customer experience with you matches up to their expectations.”
Research reveals that top organizations across the globe prioritize customer experience and make it a core point of their strategy. In particular, Safaricom is the most influential and impressive company in Kenya’s corporate scene. Several factors have contributed to the organization’s huge success. However, the company’s focus on delivering customer experience excellence is a key driver of their business. Making customer experience a strategic agenda for the whole company can result in improved business outcomes across all aspects of a business. Today’s customers expect great service and this is the key to building relationships that will grow and sustain a business.