By Carolyne Gathuru
The Big Four agenda for the country has brought just about as much excitement as the first promise made after independence to eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease, to the greatly famed Vision 2030, launched in 2008 with much pomp and fanfare. Just as it was then, every corporate and public institution feels the need to name drop the Big Four agenda – all angling towards cashing in on the country’s rejuvenated focus and new promises. The next five years promise to be an intriguing period as all roads lead to delivering on the ambitious targets outlined in the four delivery pillars – affordable housing, food security, affordable healthcare, and manufacturing. The question that naturally follows from a customer experience angle is to examine if the objectives of this mission are anchored on providing service delivery that points to a high quality of life for the citizen – the ultimate internal customer that the country needs to focus on diligently.
An excerpt from the speech that was read by the President while launching the Big Four, points to the customer experience desired for Kenyans by Kenyans that the country as the key supplier needs to deliver. The backdrop indicates that efforts were made to listen to the voice of the customer in order to design the blueprint. An abridged version of the original address reads: “In our interactions, four things emerged as the major concerns that deserve our focus. You told me that a jobless Kenyan is a desperate Kenyan, a hungry Kenyan is a negative Kenyan, a sick Kenyan is a weak Kenyan and a homeless Kenyan is a Kenyan without hope”. This points directly to the customers’ functional and emotional needs. The customer experience excellence principle on delivering wholesome service to customers, stipulates that the balance between these two needs, must be well coordinated. Whereas the country’s focus as outlined in – “The Big Four – Immediate Priorities and Actions; Specific Priorities for The New Term” – is filled with seventy three pages of graphs, tables, charts, process flows and geographical maps all outlining specific targets in activity levels, cost, financing and revenue expectations, and impact percentages, more social outcomes need to be plugged into the core, and outlined within the same document.
This conversation maps directly to the customer experience and customer service agenda that once internalized, delivers on both emotional and functional customer needs. Customer experience is often confused with customer service, and organizations’ focus on service at the expense of experience. In this same light as the government goes forth to deliver the Big Four agenda and focus on manufacturing, affordable housing, food security and affordable healthcare, it behooves those at the helm of this delivery project to do so whilst acutely aware of the need to up the service delivery game in all these sectors and put the citizen at the centre. The citizen’s experience will ultimately govern the outcome of the Big Four and the objective to transform the lives of Kenyans from hardship and want to greater comfort and well being, will only come to pass and be successfully evaluated when the customers – the actual citizens are in agreement that their idea of comfort and well being is being addressed.
The Big Four also represent critical customer touch points for the nation. Customers touch points are the points of contact between the customer and the brand where they interact with and experience the brand. The four agenda items are critical touch points for Brand Kenya. Given that the internal customer is really where significant effort needs to be placed to ensure satisfaction towards delivery of external customer satisfaction, it is now more than ever clear that implementation of these key pillars must ensure that citizens feel loved. These touch points will govern the overall customer experience and the feelings evoked from the interactions in all these areas. The sum total of all these interactions over time will be registered in the citizen’s mind, and create a warm feeling towards the country. The benefits and outcomes of a country where citizens have a warm feeling, attachment, and loyalty cannot cease to be underscored over and over.
These four touch points are also intertwined and success in one area will not only positively impact the others, but conversely delivery failure will collapse the others. It goes without saying that if citizens are hungry and have no steady source of food to sustain them and their families, then there will be an insufficient and incapable workforce to run the manufacturing drive that is being implemented for poverty eradication; if decent housing is not available, that sits at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a basic physiological need for survival, then citizen’s health will be compromised; compromised health affects the nation’s productivity and progress and the country’s objectives will be at stake, pointing at the need for affordable healthcare to ensure that citizen well being allows them to thrive. Each touch point affects service delivery downstream, and just as delivering customer experience excellence demands teamwork, the drivers of the Big Four agenda need to ensure team effort is in place to deliver all the goals successfully.
The Big Four blue print is a well-crafted document, and has within it various KPIs and delivery targets spread across the five years for each delivery pillar. Viewing these from a customer experience lens, the specific facets of customer service are quite adequately covered. The rational performance, the facts – including if the citizen got what they came for, if the service desired was received, and if the outcome met the standards, are captured.
This has been adequately enumerated including: the import and export sectors and the manufacturing initiatives for delivery; the food and nutrition security interventions including specific food group drives, cost reduction strategies and legislative requirements for success; the 100% universal health care initiative with its five step innovative plan that outlines the institutional, financial and collaborative support required for success; and the one million homes programme centred on demand, construction cost, buyer and developer financing, and a supportive ecosystem. All are very good and plug into what is needed to serve citizens. However, customer experience is not purely limited to the ‘cold’ facts. It is a combination of rational facts and emotional engagement.
This stems from how customers feel and is governed by the senses stimulated – the sensory aspects of what they see if pleasing or otherwise, what they hear, if encouraging or not, as aligned to the body; as well as the emotions evoked – how customers feel in terms of feeling loved and cared for, listened to, provided with adequate attention and most importantly, feeling significant and important. These are the emotive aspects that the Big Four ultimately desires for Kenyans. These customer experience metrics are however not drawn out within the document and would need to be highlighted because if the process of implementation of the Big Four agenda comes with trauma, pain, frustration and helplessness for citizens, the objective will not have been achieved.
Customers are constantly measuring and assessing their experience at every touch point. As they interact they are constantly asking themselves how they feel about each action. These measurements are not based on rational thought, but are subjective, often leaning on irrationality and gut feel. This measurement is based on feelings and irrational expectations and as human beings are highly emotional creatures, Kenyans are no exception. If over 50% of a customer’s experience is subconscious, and leans on feelings and the irrational impression about how a brand makes them feel as a human being, then it is imperative to factor these in to the Big Four agenda. The ‘what’ is indeed important, but focusing on the ‘how’ will yield sustainable results.
Peter Drucker, the management guru aptly puts it that if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve on it. In that regard, there is need to measure the customer experience elements of the Big Four agenda. Social impact metrics – the measure of the effect of any activity on the social fabric of the community and well-being of the individuals and families – map directly on to customer experience metrics governed by the customer’s perception of the relationship they have with the brand. The Big Four agenda needs to embed in it, customer experience and social impact outcomes that will lead to citizen loyalty owing to feeling valued by the country.
That the Big Four is developmental is not in question. What needs to be tweaked from a customer experience angle is the how of its implementation, and the emotional impact on the citizen to ensure it is not a lope sided agenda. For as Howie Lau, CMO, StarHub renowned for his people passionate strategies says : “If you are not addressing the emotional side of things and are purely functional, it will never be sufficient. There is no hard and fast rule for how much emotional and functional elements need to be in your plan, you simply need to take a look at both lenses when creating the strategy.”
Carolyne Gathuru is the Founder and Director at Lifeskills Consulting. She has a wealth of experience in Customer Service Strategy Development and Training.