Looking back, Looking forward | Customer service on the upswing
Author, speaker and legendary marketing consultant Andrew Wood posits that success in most things doesn't come from some gigantic stroke of fate. He suggests, instead, that success comes from simple, incremental progress.
As we project positively and reflect analytically, we can do so with a fulfilling sense of gratitude for identifiable indicators of success, marked by the kind of incremental advancement to which Wood alludes.
Chief among this is the recognition of how efficient and effective customer service can boost business image and positively impact bottom line.
This awareness is evident in a range of businesses: large or small, manufacturing or retail, public or private.
All organisations have become progressively more aware and have, in fact, placed increased importance on the task of illuminating and developing ways to improve the delivery of service. These include emphasis on staff training and devising mechanisms to facilitate sharing of feedback if things go contrary to expectations.
The discernible high level of this awareness within the public sector is particularly impressive. The sector has transformed significantly and is currently not just fairly comparable with the private sector, but can also be viewed as arguably better in many instances.
More public sector organisations have worked assiduously to attain and maintain respectable levels and this is certainly a high point for 2018, considering where the sector is coming from.
Additionally, both the public and private sectors have recorded heightened activity in terms of implementation of creative options in the areas such as: increased online transactions and web chat facilities, improved ability to track transactions online from start to finish, increased introduction of mobile applications, growth in one-stop shopping experiences (with inter and intra agency combinations, which improve on service deliver), significantly reduced processing times (with more same-day or next-day, transactions available), and uniquely customised or tailor-made offerings driven and influenced by customer preferences.
There is also amplified enhancement in how matters of customer care and concern are handled at all levels. Many small-business owners, including fish vendors, hairdressers and tailors, are investing resources and time to ensure that things are done differently or to provide added services or elements to guarantee that what they offer will meet, and satisfy, the needs of their current customers, as well as impress, inspire and encourage others to do business with them.
And customers have noted and endorsed same. This awareness clearly does not reside exclusively with the organisation but also with the customers themselves, who demand the very best service and hold each person/organisation accountable to very high and expected standards. This, unquestionably, is excellent, especially since it helps to keep persons and organisations on their toes and reduces the likelihood of customers being taken for granted or organisations being put at risk.
Of course, the Government's decision to embrace the drive is indicative of the importance that is placed in building a customer-friendly environment at the national level among the business leaders and policymakers.
Another high point this year was the launch of the Customer Service Centre in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court (Civil Division) on Sutton Street in downtown Kingston.
At the launch, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes pledged to open similar centres in rural parishes. Sykes has mandated parish court judges to embrace the manner in which service is delivered to the public by the courts. He added that this is just as important as any judgment being handed down by a judge.
A vital point to note is the fact that Jamaicans have become more social-media savvy and are using the various online platforms as mediums for highlighting both positive and negative customer experiences.
This forces companies to be more accountable. There was a time when poor service could remain a secret between the customer and a company. The times have however changed, and one can now put their experiences and observations on 'blast' and share them with the world in real time with just the click of a button.
The introduction of new and improved technology does not replace the need for human interaction. Customer service is as transactional as it is relational. therefore, you can never take the human touch out of customer service. When it comes to creating the right customer experience, soft skills matter.
Artificial intelligence is now being explored and is already being used in some financial institutions to assist customers, but while you can be guaranteed a swift response, this solution may not satisfy the need for human interaction.
DISSING THE DISABLED
If we can do more to serve our customers with disabilities, we will be well on our way to achieving our 2030 visionary targets as a country. Efforts to serve the underserved have been made without proper planning and coordination.
For example, where some ramps exist, these are symbolic features in that they do not meet the right specifications to accommodate easy wheelchair access.
Much has been achieved. As the saying goes, however, room for improvement should remain the biggest room in everyone's house. So, as we fix our gaze on 2019 with hope and expectation, and as we look back critically on 2018, it is advisable to embrace the notion proffered by John C. Maxwell that "sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn".
- Donnetta Russell, as customer-care manager, led the National Housing Trust to the Best Customer Service Entity trophy in the Public Sector Customer Service Competition on more than one occasions. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org