In business world, customers are referred to as kings. ZAKA ABD-KHALIQ writes on how experts believe they should be treated.
Imagine a prominent Nigerian king visiting your shop or company to sample what you have so that he can place an order. Citing him from afar in his flowing regalia, as a shop owner, you begin to put everything in place before he gets there.
Upon getting to your office or shop, you first and foremost calm his nerves, persuade him using a subtle voice and language in a bid to convince him that he has indeed come to the right place. In fact, you give him a special offer and treatment, after all, he is a king that cannot be treated like everybody.
But in today’s business world, things seems to have changed, there is no longer hierarchy in the way customers are treated. Every customer now is a king and a company aspiring to survive for long must give each customer preferential king’s treatment.
The competitive nature of the business world has brought about competing brands who have extremely fantastic quality and With stiff competition among competing brands growing on a daily basis in the business world, companies are now going extra length to know their customers the more.
So, you have to count yourself lucky if a customer patronises you or else, you lose him to your competitor. So, companies try as much as possible to maintain their old customers by giving them a preferential treatment so that they don’t lose them to competitors.
Most firms even adopt promo to consistently persuade customers to stay with their respective brands.
The markets have been transformed from “sellers’ market” to “buyers’ market” where the choice exercised by the consumer will be influenced by the level of consumer awareness achieved. When it comes to customer preferences, it is not a matter of right, wrong or what might ultimately be acceptable. It’s simply a matter of what the customer wants to buy.
According to Mr. Rakesh Naru, who has over 15 years’ experience in After Sales Operation and Customer Retention, “Meeting some customer’s demands may be expensive. But then, consumers are the one who is paying for the product. Today, the firms do not leave any stone unturned to attract the consumer and gain a significant market share. The companies have started differentiating their own products with the consumers’ eyes. They promise of the value to be delivered and believe in customer value proposition.”
ARE COMPANIES GIVING CUSTOMERS KING’S TREATMENT?
Assessing the service delivery in the banking sector, Mr. Kareem Ayanwale said his bank sends birthday wishes to him on his birthday, and gives exclusive treatment to him and other customers at banking hall, even as the bank also had mouthwatering promos, which is done towards year end to reward and entice customers.
However, Mr. Ashem Timothy, another customer with a first generation bank, expressed satisfaction on the services he is getting from his bank, but believes the charges are too high, calling on banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to come to the rescue.
“I am happy with service my bank provides but I am unhappy with several deductions they are doing on my account. The charges are too high and I think the regulatory body should caution banks on this. There are a lot of unnecessary charges in banks that must be quickly addressed,” he stated.
Speaking on behalf of shareholders in an interview with LEADERSHIP, the President, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria(PSAN), Mr. Boniface Okezie, said stockbrokers have improved in their service delivery to shareholders, even though, there is always room for improvement.
He said most stockbrokers have serious relationship with shareholders because of their quality service delivery, thereby, gaining the trust of their customers. He, however, said, there are few stockbrokers who are involved in share manipulation and malpractices, but that the regulatory body have appropriately sanctioned those found culpable.
According to the Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy (CPRA), Mr. Takor Ivor, said Section 1 of Pension Reform Act 2004, the forerunner of the current Pension Reform Act 2014 as well as section 3 of the 2014 Act, established the Contribution Pension Scheme, adding that, while the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs)takes investment decision on the Pension Funds, Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs) are actually in the custody of the fund. So, it’s the PFAs who interact with Pension contributors.
Speaking on behalf of contributors, Ivor said, the services most PFAs are providing to their customers are good, as they have improved in the use of IT platforms to reach out to their clients, he noted that there are few PFAs whose services are bad, believing that the opening of Pension transfer window will make them improve on services rendered.
Most PFAs, he said, regularly updates their contributors on the growth of their pension Fund which are mostly due to monthly contribution and investment returns, saying, each contributors can track the growth of his pension through this means.
In terms of building stronger relationship with clients, Mr. Kunle Adebisi, a Retirement Savings Account (RSA) holder, while assessing services provided by players in the financial service sector believes Pension Fund Administrators(PFAs) are better than insurance companies, although, he said, the banking sector and telecommunication companies still have more edge.
Speaking on behalf insurance consumers at a forum in Lagos, the President/Chief Executive, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote regretted that most insurance operators do not provide relevant solution to the needs of the sector’s they play in because they lack the full understanding of the nature of these businesses.
Dangote, who was represented by the Group Chief Risk & Insurance Officer, Group Chief Procurement Officer, Dangote Industries Limited, Dr (Ms) Adenike Fajemirokun, urged underwriters to be prompt in claims payment, as delay may impaired or ruin the business.
According to the CEO of ACT Foundation, Osayi Alile, the benefits of establishing a good relationship with customers are numerous including continuous referrals, which research has shown is one of the best forms of marketing a business and building the bottom-line. A good relationship with customers, she said, can serve as an indication that they believe in what such business stands for, acknowledge and trust the expertise in the industry, and believe in the value that you offer.
On his part, the Commissioner for Insurance, Alhaji Mohammed Kari, said: “the different between great and poor customer service has always been clear, and businesses on the wrong end of this spectrum usually pay a price. This is as true for insurance as it is for any other customer-facing business. Today, the consequences of subpar service are amplified by the speed and reach of social media.
“One poorly handled claim, one mistake captured on a smart phone could escalate quickly into a brand-damaging crisis, he added.
Listing some steps companies can build concrete relationships with customers, Osayi Alile, said, data is critical to knowing one’s customers, as it allows a company gathers information that provides details of customers’ preferences and tastes to create heartfelt experiences that are memorable or valuable.
Daymond John of Shark Tank, a company that specialises in career coaching, said:
“To over-deliver in service to a customer is by far the most valuable thing to a business. Because, there are only two ways to improve the operations of a business: increase sales or decrease costs. In today’s environment, decreasing costs is hard. And as far as increasing sales, doing so via customer service is highly effective.”
Great customer service, he said, means making customers feel special, while delivering a great customer experience means your customers will want to come back. It costs three to five times more to gain a new customer vs. keeping the one you have, so building a relationship is even more important than closing a quick deal, he added.
To him, “Businesses are in place to serve customers. When you serve a customer and make them feel important, like a king, you make them feel special. Acknowledging to a customer that they matter to your business goes a long way in building customer loyalty. Treat them as equals because customers want to feel like they are on a peer-to-peer relationship with you. Be honest and transparent in fees, pricing, warranties, follow up service, among others. Streamline the buying process, make it hassle-free and easy to do business with you.”
The Managing Director/CEO, Blue Pearl Konsult Limited, Chief Chris Obi, on his part, said, while available research claim a whopping 96 per cent of customers will not bother to give feedback, he said, unfortunately, most businesses, especially, do not pay adequate attention to the remaining four per cent, who give their feedback.
“Therefore, in business, without listening to feedback from your customers, exceptional service may be far away just as you are not cognizant of customer pain points. Listening to the customer is perhaps the most important part of design and strategy to deliver exceptional service and be successful,” he stressed.
Top level product planning, he pointed out, must ensure products are relevant, affordable and value adding for the ultimate customer, while all employees must have a fair knowledge of the company’s products in line with the purpose and vision set and shared by top management.