Why investing in customer service is the most profitable investment in a business
By Caroline Mwendwa
As organisations shift gear from providing basic customer service to deliberately giving customers unforgettable experience, bigwigs in the industry have set the pace by making huge investments in this area. During the Safaricom’s customer service week, our team reached out to the director, at Safaricom call centre and the lengths this organization has gone to ensure its customers have the best experience using their services is astounding.
“For us, customer service is not just solving problems for customers but leaving them a wow moment after seeking our services,” says Jannet Atika, the director at the Safaricom call centre. In an effort to support customers adequately, the call centre has a variety of options to use in responding to customer queries. “We respond through Tweeter, Facebook, email, text messages and call numbers.” As technology continues to create new ways of engagement, Safaricom customer service is embracing IT in empowering customers to be able to solve some problems digitally and in a more interactive manner.
“With good customer experience, customers stick with you even in the toughest times, and that is the pleasure of investing in it,” she enthuses.
Uniqueness in customer experience
The starting point for a fulfilling customer experience journey is engaging the right personnel to serve as the contact people to the organization. “Here at Safaricom, we select the best staff to represent the company by undertaking a rigorous process of vetting and those selected are taken through a six weeks training which includes further testing to ensure that the training is effective.” Before a candidate is hired, he or she has to attain an 80% score of the tests given.
Safaricom stands out in employee inclusion, and it has been recognized as the organization that employs the most number of people with disability. Atika expresses her passion about serving as the director of Safaricom’s call centre for this reason. “The best part of my job is the ability to address and influence situations faced by the minorities and the vulnerable through job offers in this facility.” 3% of the 2,500 staff members at the call centre are people with disability and gender ratio is also reflective of inclusion in the organization. It is in the same spirit that the composition of this staff population is spread across all regions from the country. A closer look at the employees shows a blend of ethnic backgrounds with a consideration on the marginalized communities such as Turkana.
Most organisations fail in recognizing the centrality of customer care and place it at the periphery when planning for structures. This however creates a crack in the whole system as dissatisfied customers are a recipe for a tumbling business. “It is not possible to quantify immediate gains from investing in customer experience, but in the long run, the benefits are always evident as customer retention is undeniably crucial in a lasting business,” says Atika.
Making customers the central point must be an organizational goal, expressed and exemplified by all, right from the company head, down to the juniors. There has to be a committed focus on customers’ queries, wishes and expectations. Safaricom has embraced this culture as the director call center explains that the CEO and other heads regularly meet at the call center offices with interest on the customers’ feedback on the company’s services.
Working with the youth
Ms Atika refutes claims that working with youth is challenging, asserting that on the contrary, it is a very exciting experience. “Young people are always eager to learn and will go to an extent of offering suggestions on how they want to be handled.” Most of the employees at the call centre are young people and as the director puts it, working here is expected to be a transit to other opportunities. “The tenure of this job is averagely 4 years but in some cases, we retain employees for much longer.” This is partly due to the fact that Safaricom has invested immensely into the wellbeing of staff at the centre. It boasts of a state-of-the-art facility, second to none in the entire East and Central Africa, in terms of ambiance and facilities for leisure and unwinding. The organization believes that for customers to be happy, the employees serving them have to be happy, content and comfortable. It is for this reason that so much has been put into ensuring all the social and health needs of the staff are taken care of.
Among the facilities availed at the call centre are: a health facility with doctors, a kindergarten complete with nannies and nurses, a gymnasium, a restaurant, a lounge and a resource centre.The crush provides support to parents on days when they are not in a position to leave their children at home for one reason or another. In addition, mothers to be are given support in terms of leave days. “We give a longer maternity leave of four months, and once the employee has had the baby, they are only required to work for six hours a day instead of the usual eight, before they can fully resume work.”
Trends in the industry
Customer experience has undergone a revolution in the corporate world. As Atika explains, earlier on, customer care staff was not even reporting to the head of department, which goes to show how lowly it was regarded as a function. But as corporates realise the importance of customer experience, feedback and insights, today, organisations that have considered it a pivotal function, have established an elaborate structure with managers reporting even directly to the chief executive officer. This development shows how much companies are starting to see the impact of good customer relations and continual contact.
At Safaricom, plans are underway to expand this branch of the organization and they intend to enhance accessibility through leveraging on technology and employing more staff to help handle various functions regarding customer reach.
In terms of technology, there are plans to launch voice biometrics which will reduce cases of fraud. “In addition to using technology to make our services faster, accurate and safer, we also intend to employ 800 more people in the next 8 years,” adds Atika.
Advice on leadership
Having worked at Safaricom for the last seventeen years in different leadership positions and serving as the director of the team at the call centre which is majorly composed of the youth, Atika observes that the youth sometimes lose it when they enter the job market in a hurry to rise before gaining the necessary skills and experience for these positions. She emphasizes that most employees in senior management positions have had to work extra hard. For her, the right attitude plays a significant role in one’s success.
Her advice to organisations is that desiring to have a lasting relationship with customers is not enough; they must get the best experience for them to remain loyal. The starting point is ensuring that the employees serving them are motivated and embraced by the organization.
Asked how she balances work with family responsibilities, she says that it is very challenging to do so. “For you to have best of both, you have to juggle the two. Let the family in on your work and vice-versa as those two are inseparable,” she says.
As a way of unwinding from her busy schedule as a senior manager, Atika goes to her farm to view the still greenery and enjoy the calmness of nature.