Mr. Ikechukwu Kalu, the Lead Consultant at Customer Passion Point Limited (CPPL), a firm of value creation consultants that provides marketing consulting and training in this interview with ISAAC ASABOR, declares the need for organisations to intensify efforts toward attaining excellent customer service as well as prioritising the skilling training their customer-facing staff, who he calls brand ambassadors. Excerpts:
As a Brand and Marketing Expert, what are the things you think should be considered for Nigerian brands to grow and create stakeholder value consistently?
For Nigerian brands to grow and deliver stakeholder value consistently, they must make customer experience the focal point of their strategy.
What advise can you offer in this parley for organisations to be on the spectrum of customer satisfactions to service excellence?
While company policies may be for the interest of the company, many times they frustrate service delivery to the customer. When we say service excellence, we are expected to ‘think without a box’ as that would enable some level of flexibility that guarantees the customer to not just be delighted but be satisfied as well. The good news is when we engage our customers at this level of experience, our organizations benefit from it as it would lead to loyalty that is borne out of sheer delight. Here, your customers begin to speak for you as net promoters – advocates.
Now, I would appreciate it being in an air-conditioned room, soft jazz music or good football match, but I want my hair well-cut. If the shop has all the trimmings and the blade of the shaving kit keeps nipping at my skin, or the barber barbs my hair too low, or the drape is dirty, or he does not wash my hair after the hair-cut, then all the trimmings are of no consequence. I came for a good hair-cut and I expect to get one.
What other factors do you think can influence customer satisfaction apart from what you just said?
Incidentally, I design and implement customer experience value proposition, in addition, to teach experiential marketing at the Pan Atlantic University at the MSc level. Experience is everything. Customers want to buy experience, not products,
I don’t want to come into the barbershop and wait endlessly. If I have to wait I would like to know that it would soon be my turn.
I would also want the actual barbing experience to be quick. I would hate for my barber to keep excusing himself to attend to other issues apart from my haircut. I want to be in and out as quickly as possible. Every business should wire itself to deliver experience (value) to their customers. It will require that management is completely committed to service excellence. In addition to the customer experience blueprint I talked about earlier, brands will need to invest in e technology, automation and uncomplicated processes.
It will require motivated and adequately equipped and skilled staff. These are all costs to the business. However, the more excited a customer is with the value they get from you, the more he is willing to pay for them and would promote and recommend you always.
Experience (service excellence) is the differentiator in the market place. Businesses must invest to understand, design, and put structures in place to thoroughly delight the customer and see what that does to the bottom-line. It is worth every kobo spent.
Herein lies the importance of these tips. These are tested strategies for managing customer experience across industries. We must always wear the hat of the customer, don’t fight the feedback, advise and don’t just sell, etc.
With all that you have said concerning quality customer experience, don’t you think it is expedient for organizations to empower their customer-facing staff?
Of course! organizations need to empower their customer-facing staff to truly live out their customer experience value proposition. Excellent customer service provides an experience that meets customer expectations. It helps to build good relationships with customers. It produces satisfied customers.
I encourage brands to:
- Have an integrated approach to identifying, acquiring, and maintaining customers. Remember it cost so much to get a customer and cost less than nothing to lose them. A bad experience can spell doom for an organization.
- Also, have a strategy for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. It helps them stay connected to them, streamline processes, and improve your profitability.
These are what we do at Customer Passion Point Limited (CPPL). As a firm of marketing and value creation consultants, we work with our clients to strike the appropriate balance between customer demand and strategic importance.
It is one thing for customers to complain but another to have their complaints resolved quickly. Smile at the customer is good but that is neither customer service nor customer experience management. It’s good to have but what the customer wants is for his or her issue(s) to be resolved prompted. This should be the focus of every organization. Identify the issues and solve them promptly. This can only be achieved if customer-facing staff and the entire business are wired to support the customers. They are empowered to resolve customer issues within agreed timelines. In fact, without empowerment, a lot of complaints will end up unresolved.
Please don’t refer customers to other people, or tell them to call back, or tell them to hold on or wait endlessly. Once that happens, you are simply telling them to look for alternatives. No business wants that. It actually costs more to get them back than just retain them.
- You must empower everyone to service the customer as if he or she is the only one and in fact the reason for the very existence of the company.
- Your teams must be equipped with the needed tools, information, and skills required to meet customer needs in a manner that is consistent with your promise.
- The power any organization gives to its customer-facing staff (brand ambassadors) is what keeps customers coming.
Without a doubt, you have high regard for organizations that deliver excellent services to their customers. What is the inspiration behind your high regard for such organizations?
What inspires me in this regard cannot be farfetched as Customer Experience is the 21st-century business differentiator, especially in Sub Saharan Africa. Whenever customers make contact with businesses, the more memorable the experience, the more likely to retain their patronage.
It sounds so simple but the dynamics to deliver excellent and consistent experience are detailed and very demanding. Are we as Sub Saharan African businesses, ready to make the sacrifice it requires to build customer-centric businesses? That is a question we must really stop to answer if we want to take businesses from the region to the global space.
We have designed an online excellent customer service course to empower staff and individuals looking to take their customer experience serving skills to the next level. Click here to access the course
Sir, who is Ikechukwu Kalu?
I am the Lead Consultant at Customer Passion Points Limited (CPPL).
As Lead Consultant, I am charged with the responsibility of developing and owning the vision of the business and to ensure proper resourcing, overseeing, and delivery of top performance. My experiences cut across manufacturing, telecommunication, and financial services.
Prior to assuming this role, I have held many strategic positions and roles in the marketing and customer experience departments of a couple of top-performing organizations. Among them are Guinness Nigeria (Now Diageo), MTN Nigeria, Zain Nigeria (Now Airtel Nigeria), Zanzibar Telecoms (a part of Etisalat in Tanzania), FCMB and Ecobank Nigeria.
I am also an Adjunct Lecturer at the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, and a Resource Person at the famous Lagos Business School, Lagos.
I have in the last few years made valuable contributions to the bottom line of some notable organizations through consulting, capabilities development, facilitation of strategic planning sessions, mentoring of small and growing entrepreneurs, and providing ad hoc and strategic advisory services.
I love what am doing now and wish the call to consulting and training came a little earlier. Consulting presents huge opportunities for me to partner with others to create value – develop exciting consumer insights, brand strategies, marketing plans, and high impact brand activations to drive value and volume growth in addition to supporting the evolution of the brand. I work with businesses to hold credible review sessions and develop functional strategic plans to accelerate the growth of their businesses. These motivate and keep me going every day.