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05.11.2007 Feature Article


“Customer- Service”. “What's that? “I'm too busy texting on my new phone to serve you”

Except those who donate blood voluntarily, one is either selling a service or a product for a living. Politicians, bankers, clerks, messengers, bus conductors, mortuary attendant, ticket agents, market women and everyone who provides a trade or service has a customer. So how do your customers think about your service?

As customers, have you been amazed by a service provider who gave you an outstanding service beyond and above his or her call of duty? I don't think so! If there was an Oscar or national Award for unfriendliness and customer dissatisfaction, it should go to the former Ghana airways, Ghana's vehicle licensing authority and hotel employees and every other service provider in Ghana. You can not find real customer service from these people. It is not part of their psyche to serve—they find no joy in it. Most of our service providers in Ghana behave as if they are doing their customers favors instead of rendering a service which is promised and paid for. Customer service' has lost its impetus, for it is no longer an index measuring success of service providers. Customer have been pushed to the wall to accept the fact that as far Ghana is concerned the customer has no choice or voice other than to survive at the mercy of halfhearted service providers. Poor customer service is gradually becoming an accepted norm in our society.

Consequently, the Ghanaian business culture has created a class of people whose only creativity is to invent ways and means of milking the customer to the bone.

These service providers are afraid of responsibility and commitment to whatever business activity they are engaged in because being responsible and committed to their products or services call for a little bit of work they do not really want to do. They have designed their 'system' to suit the convenience of the management and not the customer. Does the defunct Ghana Airways ring a bell? Take a trip to Ghana's ministries and you will have a feel of the how civil servants respond to duties. You will get a total picture of why it takes that long to clear your shipment from the ports. The response to emergency by nurses in our hospitals speaks for this issue. You will realize the attitude of most our nurses to duty is no different from boys “scoutism or girls “guideism”. You will get to know that the Ghanaian nurse does not work with any urgency. “Everything done by the nurse is at her own time”

A hairdresser fixes hair, isn't it? Increasingly, most businesses in Ghana do not even know what class of business they are engaged in, let alone to identify their customers and how to cultivate them. In fact, the next time you go into a saloon to get a hair cut ask the barber what business does him or she engage in. I promise you he or she would answer with something like this: “I cut hair, or I do hair”. From a customer point of view, a hairdresser is in the business of making his customers feel good and look good. In other words, he is selling beauty and good looks. The customers love to be showered with compliment.

Those in hospitality industry are not only supposed to sell comfort but to pamper their guests. A hotel room has to be the guest's most favorite place away from home. Therefore, it should bring him or her some amount of gratification and tranquility and all the comfort left at home. Anything less than these expectations are just a scheme to get something for nothing.

People have needs, and when you meet those needs you provide service for those who needs are met. The fact is that you have not only saved them the hassle of looking else where, but also what you offer them is unique as you treat them as cherished clients. Once you are able to do this the cost of your service or fees become irrelevant. Most customers are less concern about the price of goods and service instead the customer is very much cautious of what he or she gets in place of the amount paid. What they want is good service.

The upwardly mobile people are usually very busy. They want things done quickly and efficiently. The value of the service is not a major decision factor for the customer--- most especially those in the middle and upper classes of the social strata.

Anyone who works for a living has a customer. So regardless of the nature of your work, you have a customer. Lawyers call their customers clients, doctors call theirs patients, authors have readers and Actors call them the audience. The police officer may call his suspect or complainant/witness or both; I can guess that you are laughing! It does not matter what we call them, we must understand that customers are the most important aspects of any business because they can single-handedly determine the longevity and vitality of any business. The customer has the money. On the other hand, businesses are to provide services or offer their products of sale so that they can have a share of the customers' money.

The customers decide whether you and your business will survive and how much money you can make. Customers also decide when to go to work and when to go home. So my question is this: Why does the Ghanaian business community pay so little attention and respect to this group of people which has so much power?

When was the last time a store attendant or a restaurant waitress asked for your cell phone number so that she could call you and thank you for the last patronage or the birth dates of your spouse and children for the purpose of having you come back? When was the last time a taxi driver in Ghana offered you his cell phone to make a quick phone call to a member of your family on your arrival at Kotoka Airport? When was the last time a taxi driver made copies of the latest CD and gave them out to his passengers? How many times have you been in a hotel room in Ghana and the lousy and arrogant attendant knocked on your door to give you a toilet roll or a bed sheet? I wonder if he or she ever checked the room prior to your arrival. Why does he or she have to wait until you locked your door before you are offered the essentials that you are entitled to?

What will be your reaction if you picked your car from your mechanic and it is spotless-- waxed and polished? If you think that is too much for the Ghanaian mechanics what about receiving thank- you text message from a shop from which you bought your last new furniture? In any business little stuff matter. These little things should be taken care of if one wants to satisfy the customers.

A satisfied customer becomes a raving fan because he would become so excited about the way you treat him or her such that he or she becomes part of your sale force by telling everyone about your company.

Given our priorities customer service is not an important item on the Ghanaian national agenda. I wonder if we can honestly develop our indigenous resources if our most important resources –people's needs -- are ignored. The tomb of the late Ghana Airways is littered with wreaths of curses from badly treated passengers. I wonder if the dissatisfied- customers pushed it down the cliff. You see, customers are always right. If you do not listen to them you would be forced to go into extinction.
Even the world's best most unique product cannot survive at a giveaway price, if that company or firm has no regard for its customers. Customers will gladly pay more for less when they have the confidence that they will be served well in the process.

Great customer- service is about:
1. Figuring out what your customers want
2. Getting it for them accurately, politely and enthusiastically with a smile.
3. Going extra mile and say “thank you” and be courteous.
Ghanaians are used to poor service why the need for great service?
1. Ghanaian businesses need customers far more than the customers need them.
2. Great service is a sound marketing tool.
You don't have to get an MBA to know that the best advertising is done by mouth and that is free. Your customers would share the great service experience with their friends, neighbors and children.

3. Great service keeps customers coming back and when they come they don't come by themselves.

4. The company's finances look good if it provides great service because great service is directly linked to the company's bottom-line.

5. It makes for a better place to work. If a company provides great service it is almost guaranteed to produce a more enjoyable work place. It is amazing how the spirit of giving your customers a great service can be carried over into the way your employees relate to each other.

6. It helps the company to attract better people to work with because creating a better working environment through offering great service makes it attractive to quality job applicants.

7. It is easier to provide better service than trying to make things right to unhappy customers. It takes more time, energy and money to fix things than simply have them taken care of up front.

8. On practical and spiritual level, giving great service to your guests or customers makes you feel like you are making some small contribution to their lives .Yes; it will not cure the world and its pains. But if your service can put a smile in their lives that means you have contributed to make the world a better place, and that is not a small thing to sneeze at.

Also, acknowledging, apologizing and taking action to handle the customers' complaints immediately are all very important parts of the customer service equation.

Causes of poor customer- service in Ghana:
a) We do not teach it in our schools and business world...
b) It is not respected by employers and co-workers to be customer service -oriented employee.
c) One need to go extra mile in cultivating customer service, unfortunately most employers and employees are lazy.
d) Great customer service requires different social skills like: humility, concern, empathy, thoughtfulness and ability to predict the needs of others and most people don't want to go through the trouble of acquiring all those skills they do not have.
e) Most people do not want to put their ego away and serve.
f) Employees are poorly treated. It is a well-known fact that employees will never treat their customers any better than their employers do. Customer service suffers when leadership forgets the need of its employees. Customer service only flourishes when employees have a degree of trust and respect for the management and the company.
g) There is no reward system to reinforce great customer service
h) Most companies fail to define what 'customer service' is because they don't even know the needs of their customers let alone to provide the needed service.
i) Arrogance, which is usually stems from delusion—the belief that one is indispensable.

The case of a taxi driver:
If I were a taxi driver, I would always arm myself with maps of interesting places on my route so that I can give them to my passengers. I would be well-versed in quality service of the local hotels and restaurants that would suit my passengers' budgets. On the hot days, I would make sure I have stocked my ice chest with cold bottled water in the trunk of my car in order to give them out to my thirsty passengers. It sounds very expensive but, I can guarantee its dividend is thousand fold. It would be a gesture my passengers arriving at the airport will not forget. We have to put originality into customer service. Alternatively, I will ask my passengers the music they want to hear, instead of playing what I like.

As a politician, a mortuary attendant, a chop- bar owner, a teacher, a carpenter or a musician, how much can you amaze your “customers?

Speaking of customer- care, I hope I'm able to meet your “customer - care” expectations. However, as my good friend Kwame, who read the hardcopy of this article, jokes,” the intended audience of this 'Gospel' doesn't read from the net”. I think he was right, so I urge you to spread it around like a disease so as not to make my crusade to inject some amount of customer-care into the system to be in vain.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi

* The writer is a social commentator and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment, Educational and Apprenticeship Foundation, to help the youth of Asuom, in the Kwaebibrim district, E/R.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi, © 2007

This author has authored 198 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwakuAduGyamfi

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