This week I was delighted to work with Chris Skinner and presented ‘Advanced Customer Service’ to an ESAMI (Eastern and Southern African Management Institute) group from Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. Discussion was of a high quality and the input from groups valuable.
One of the modules involved a progressive series of questions:
- What are the needs of our customers now?
- How will those needs have changed and what will the customers’ needs be in five years time?
- What is the role of Government in catering for those changing needs?
- And what should the Private Sector be doing to bring about positive change that will facilitate meeting those customers’ needs?
Much of the discussion centered around the role of respective governments in creating an environment conducive to high standards of customer service in all sectors. These factors, listed in random order below, impact on the level of service which governments, organisations, businesses and firms are able to offer.
I have consolidated the input from their groupwork and it is divided into two sections, Government and Private Enterprise. In this article I’ll cover only the changes in actions and approaches perceived to be necessary for governments. The ‘private sector’ will be included in the next article.
The consolidation process broadly incorporates all points mentioned by the groups. However, it must be emphasised that these views do not necessarily relate to a specific country and nor do they necessarily relate to all five countries represented on the course.
Governments need to:
- Take into account national economic analysis in regard to regional integration to avoid having an East African Monetary Union that will be unworkable.
- Build capacity in terms of human resources to co-operate favourably and compete or take advantage of the opportunities that come with regional integration.
- Upgrade the national ICT infrastructure i.e. Fibre optics to automate business processes and promote e-commerce. This will enable easy access to prompt services – e.g. mobile service, internet service etc. Customers will more effectively access information as well as employment opportunities. There has to be compatibility with new technology.
- Introduce adequate laws to regulate the booming mobile money transaction/sector (informal banking) and new forms of banking such as ‘Islamic Banking’.
- Lead in the fight against corruption. Governments should implement further anti-corruption policies to encourage ‘zero tolerance’. An environment of trust thus impacting on customer perceptions and other aspects of service. It would also have a ripple effect on all the other factors – for example, ‘Environmental Conservation’.
- Enhance security. This could be achieved through employing more agents, introducing more modern equipment and better surveillance. This would create an enabling environment by providing adequate security for businesses, investors and prospective investors.
- Allow transparency in the decision-making processes and negotiation in order to build sustainable relationships.
- Pay more attention to infrastructure and telecommunications and invest more: electricity, roads, dams for water, piped water.
- Enhance ‘Environmental Conservation’ by increasing forests to cover 10% more land. Protect water catchment areas.
- Provide shelter. Upgrade slums, increase the provision of cheap homes, and introduce mandatory contributions towards mortgages.
- Prioritise funding to key sectors – i.e. education and health. This will avoid having discrepancies between monetary policy and fiscal policy.
- Provide free and compulsory primary and secondary education. Employ more teachers who are better trained. Provide compulsory ICT training.
- Enhance health facilities for all by providing better equipment, stocked and well-managed health facilities, mandatory free screening for health issues such as cancer and TB.
- Work on strengthening the security of food supplies. Irrigation, storage, incentives for farmers, the revival of farming associations are among the important elements.
- Expand the economy through creating employment. Allocate more funds to youth by implementing a 10% provision for youth enterprises.
- Be accountable for results and be performance-oriented in the provision of services.
- Be proactive in legislation that facilitates environments in which business can flourish. Provide the facility and environment for more employment and optimal use of resources.
- An environment conducive for doing business is essential. Re-engineer their business processes to cut out all unnecessary bureaucratic 'red tape' to allow from prompt and quality service – e.g. getting rid of long queues and/or lengthy processes.
- Develop customer oriented strategic plans where the customer is considered ‘first’.
- Provide the requisite budget for customer service activities and capacity building forums/workshops for suppliers – e.g. customer service awards, a special day for ‘celebrating customer service’ etc.
- Encourage employees and service providers to have a change in attitude or mindset in order to offer customers the best possible service. These should include the basics like how to build positive relationships through holding conversations, smiling and helping customers.
After the groups had concluded their deliberations and prioritised their findings, I consolidated their input, looking for patterns in order to provide the unified list above. I also went back to my 2010 consolidation of the ESAMI group’s response to the same questions and compared the inputs there. Some of the differences and changes that fascinated me were:
In 2010, every group independently placed the importance of fighting corruption as a top priority. Yet, this year, only one group mentioned this as one of the most important approaches that governments should take. A small sample like this cannot give conclusive evidence of change. However, the questions remain: Is corruption more ‘under control’ than previously? Have the governments in this country taken stronger action in the last two years and has there been a decrease in corruption? Or have populations become more desensitised to the corruption around them?
Another aspect that I was curious about this year was that no group gave the fighting of HIV and Aids as a top priority. Perhaps this is more under control than it was two years ago? A new mention this time was the ‘East African Monetary Union’.
In the next article I’ll provide the consolidation of the groups’ inputs on what the private sector should be doing now in order to better suit customers’ changing needs in 2017.
For more information on the facilitation of ‘Advanced Customer Service’ or ‘Sustainable Customer Service Strategy’ please contact me - firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: +27 33 3425432, Mobile: + 27 82 4993311.