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Growth & Jobs | Don’t lose focus on the human traits of service - Allen

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:14 AM
Customer service executive Claudine Allen.
Customer service executive Claudine Allen.

CUSTOMER SERVICE executive Claudine Allen is urging businesses not to lose focus on the critical human characteristics of customer service as they rely on technology to enhance convenience and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The country, in September, entered the phase of community spread of the disease as infections and deaths rose exponentially. Jamaica has now had more than 7,700 cases of the disease and nearly 140 people have died.

Addressing the Institute of Chartered Accountants on the topic ‘Is your business customer-centric … Can you respond to changing customer needs before losing market share?’ during a webinar last week, Allen, who is the member relations executive for The Jamaica National Group, said losing or gaining market share would rely on the “human touch”.

“Although we must rely on technology so that we can respond now more than we did before to reach our customers where they are whether we lose or gain market share, our businesses must still rely on those important human characteristics - listening, empathy, and care - as well as finding and delivering solutions that meet customer needs and create opportunities for better outcomes,” she stressed.

“Without these, the ‘Movement’ loses meaning. Without these, your business cannot be responsive,” Allen told accountants as she noted that their own roles are also customer-centric.

She underscored that providing service is not merely about introducing and using technology efficiencies, but about demonstrating a deep understanding of the people who the business serves, internally and externally, and its willingness to provide solutions that satisfy needs as well as empower people. Allen emphasised that these qualities undergird the authenticity and sincerity of a business, which are tenets organisations need now to stay grounded.

“Technology, though important to service delivery, is only a vector for what we deliver because at its heart, customer service is a principle and a spirit,” Allen noted.

“It’s interesting that this business webinar is being held as we celebrate National Customer Service Week because although technology is important at this juncture, the principle and spirit of service should not be lost. Emphasis has to be placed on developing a culture within organisations that recognises the importance of service. Businesses need people who understand how to serve effectively and are empowered to deliver good service,” she said, paraphrasing the business guru Peter Drucker, who noted that the purpose of businesses are to create and retain customers.

Pointing to several initiatives the JN Group itself had undertaken since the COVID-19 outbreak in March, Allen noted that companies should be using technology creatively to establish fora to assist customers and their communities to cope with the present realities and challenges of this uncertain period.

“We must also use philanthropy to serve our customers and others in our society who are most affected, not only by donating, but demonstrating excellence as corporate citizens by innovating and implementing projects and programmes which support the vulnerable and stimulate our businesses and schools to thrive,” Allen said.

Describing the JN Group as a “movement” for betterment, Allen highlighted the organisation’s own JN Circle initiative as an example of developing ways to reach customers at this time. The initiative is a network of JN members who are empowered to develop and implement projects and programmes that influence change in their communities.

“Customer service is your business,” Allen told the accountants. “It is your purpose, and your purpose is to serve beyond making a sale.”