There is good news for all of those businesspeople who, with some justification, have been complaining about having to operate in the least competitive economy in the world. Whatever your business you are in an excellent position to make significant progress by improving customer care. There is so much ground to make up, from the rock-bottom level to which we have dropped, that this is a vast opportunity, unavailable to such a huge degree in other more competitive economies.
Before suggesting approaches to customer care improvement, let’s examine how we might have reached this stage. Firstly, we have been monopoly-ridden, ever since sanctions were imposed on the previous (Smith) regime. Manufacturers, shopkeepers and service providers found themselves as the only purveyors of certain goods and services in the country. So they developed a “take it or leave it” attitude from which we have not recovered. Also, Zimbabwe has been left out of the international “rush” to provide personnel selection services and training focused on customer care excellence.
Thirdly, we have an under-motivated, under-trained and under-remunerated public service to which we, the public, as consumers of such services have adjusted. We expect slow and incompetent service, and we usually get it. The rare occasion of good service is mentioned with envy and astonishment in pubs and dinner parties. Even off-hand or downright incompetent service in the private sector shines by comparison, so we have “dropped our standards.”
Case Study – Johannesburg
These problems are not limited to Zimbabwe, of course. In a recent visit to an auto-parts dealership in Wynberg, Johannesburg I nearly wept as I observed poker-faced staff looking up in out-of-date parts manuals for queuing customers. As each customer reached the salesperson he was directed to the other side of the shop to pay and return to queue again for the part. Several wandered off in disgust, of course.
The receptionist was a “stand-in” and unable to cope with the phonecalls and customer enquiries at the same time. There were no notices outside, in that competitive area, and 3 parking places were almost permanently empty outside the business. Several of the competitors up and down that road were packed out! The manager had no idea of the massive gap between actual and potential performance of the business, no sense of urgency, not a sign of embarrassment!
Broadband – A Local Case Study
The current battle for customers amongst those seeking the broadband service is an excellent local example of competition for customers. Those net services which keep their customers informed, apologize for breakdowns, ensure access by telephone (as opposed to the buffer-zone run-around) will gain and keep customers, whereas those consumers who have been poorly treated will have built up so much resistance that they will be lost forever as service users of such a business.
How to Achieve Customer Care Excellence
Tom Peters [Liberation Management (1993), The Pursuit of Wow! (1994)] started pushing for service excellence just as ours was declining. He recommended personnel selection for excellence and maintained that only a small proportion of humans are suited to working all day “at the interface” with the public. The “unsuited” either drift away from the work, or get fired, or grind their businesses into the dirt by inexorable bad service. Such employees hate their jobs, and they hate the customers they deal with every day!
It is possible to select, for customer care those people who will enjoy the work and do it well. Tom Friedman “The World is Flat” (2006) wrote: “Although having good people skills has always been an asset in the working world, it will be even more so in a flat world” (P306). The following model illustrates the selection process
Look for the above in selecting personnel for the customer-care interface
DAVID E. HARRISON, BA (Hons) MSc Lond.
HUMAN RESOURCES (PVT) LTD
11 LAWSON AVENUE/Cnr BLAKISTON STREET
MILTON PARK, HARARE
TEL: 04-736675, 700643