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Bukie Iwajomo: Your Customer Service Sucks! 9 Tips To Help Fix It

Bukie Iwajomo

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Filthy garbage stinks!

Ever seen a garbage truck at work? A garbage truck once broke down on our office road for a few hours. By the time it got fixed and off the road, a tiny puddle had settled on that spot from the filth in the truck. A tiny puddle and a stench that rose to the high heavens. Days later, the puddle had dried off, but the stench still remained, wickedly caressing the air and our nostrils.

This is how terrible customer service is. It stinks! Try all you can, you can’t hide it. Everyone and their dog can sniff it from miles away!

It beats me how a business owner can operate with the ‘very best’ in poor customer service, and still wonder why customers are not returning.

You spend days fasting and praying for business growth yet you treat customers like crap- you’re a joker. Wake up and smell the coffee- the forces are not against you, your enemies are not at work, the gods are not to blame. Your customer service, that reeks like rotten tilapia fish, is working against your business.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon- the biggest online retailer in the world- once said “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Jeff is ranked eighteenth on Forbes 2014 list of top 50 billionaires, and was recently declared the best performing CEO in the world by Harvard Business Review. We can guess why.

I’ve got news for you. While you were busy treating your customers like unwelcome guests, and giving them the left foot of fellowship, the stakes changed. It’s no longer about good service, it’s higher than that. The new bar is delivering ‘wow’ customer service- the kind that makes you go ‘wow’.

‘Wow’ is going beyond good service.

You know what good service is? It’s customer service that you don’t give a second thought to- it’s good, and that’s just it.

Good service is – On his way out of your premises, your customer asks “Any cake shop around here? It’s my daughter’s birthday tomorrow and she wants a Minnie Mouse cake”  You reply “hold on a second, I’ll ask my assistant, Caro, she’s a cake addict.” Sixty seconds later, you get back and say “I’m so sorry but she has no idea.” And the customer leaves.

That is good customer service.

Now imagine this- “You get back and say I’m sorry, Caro has no idea, but hold on another minute” and you quickly run a Google search for cake shops close by. You write out the results the customer who happily thanks you as he leaves.

One hour later, you call just to find out if he succeeded in getting the Minnie mouse cake for his daughter. The next day, the customer gets delivery of a birthday card and a cute Minnie Mouse purse, addressed to his daughter and personally signed by you and your staff.

Now, what is that? It’s wow customer service.

‘Wow’ gets the customer talking. He shares the experience with practically everyone he comes across. He shares it on Twitter and Facebook. ‘Wow’ is the  kind of service that gets bloggers talking and social media buzzing.

Dear entrepreneur, it’s about time you started delivering wow through service.

Here are a few pointers to get you started:

Ditch the Profit Mentality
Yes, I know money pays the bills.

But money is not the purpose; it is the outcome of the purpose. Stop making  money your number one priority. The most successful companies started out as a passion, not for money.

If  your purpose is to make people happy, you’ll go extra lengths, not to do the things that bring in money, but the things that make people happy.

Disney’s purpose is to make people happy. Walt Disney said “I want to build the happiest place on earth and fill it with happy people.” Now he’s making people happy and earning  huge profits doing so.

Chase passion, service delivery, customer experience and customers will start running to your business with their money.

Become Customer Obsessed
You cant satisfy your customers if you don’t know what they want.

You spend a huge amount of resources trying to study your competition, yet you fail to spend one hour figuring out how to make your customers happy. Stop being obsessed over your competition, start obsessing over your customers.

Spend your time and resources researching how they want to be served and how you can wow them.

Ditch that CEO Status
Oh how we love that MD status. Stop wearing your CEO title like a crown of royalty on your head because it is not. It is a cloak of servant-hood.

Not every time…sit in your highly exalted office. Move around, check up on staff, interact with your customers, let them  know you value their patronage.

Be visible, a good leader doesn’t get stuck behind the desk!
Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, is always on the move- meeting employees, talking to cabin crew, soliciting feedback from passengers- and he keeps a journal of the feedback he receives. He is constantly asking for opinions from staff and passengers.

Hire Right
Hire only people that get a kick out of serving others.

Never hire ‘can’t do’, egotistical people, no matter how well they perform in other areas. Especially if they will come in contact with your customers..

Hire for attitude, train for skill.

Treat Your Employees Right
Your employees are your internal customers, treat them the way you want them to treat customers. Don’t give your staff disservice and expect them to give your customers great service.

Gratitude is highly underestimated within the workplace, appreciate your employees. Praise in public but criticize in private.

Give them occasional surprises. Make them feel special. Treat them, and your customers, like gold.

Share Helpful Information
Stop hoarding helpful information from your customer for fear of losing them.  If you can’t solve their problems and you know someone who can, direct them there. This shows you care about them  more than your desire to make money. The key to creating an amazing customer experience is to care.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos built it into a billion dollar a year business by focusing on the customer. At Zappos, if someone calls looking for a specific pair of shoes and they’re out of stock in that size, everyone begins to check on three other competition websites, and if they find it there, they direct the customer right to the competition.

Maximize Phone Conversations
The telephone is a great branding device. It gives you  the customers undivided attention for those few minutes. In this age where there are so many distractions fighting for the customers attention, that is a blessing. If you get this interaction right, they will remember for a long time.

And stop  measuring call times, trying to get customers off the phone hurriedly in the name of efficiency. That’s poor service.

Create a Happy Environment
Work real hard, but have loads of fun. Bond with your employees. Spend time out of the office sometimes. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

I’m not asking you to take an evening course on how to become a stand-up comedian- having fun is not being funny. Just have fun. If you’re not having fun, neither will your employees, and your customers will notice.

Today, Walt Disney World has over seventy  thousand employees in Orlando Florida alone. It’s the largest single-location employer in the United States. How can Disney World get Seventy thousand people to come to work everyday smiling, joking, and exuding happiness as they work and serve customers excellently, yet in your business of only  three employees, you can’t even get them to show up at work on time?

It’s because the environment is not a fun place to be!
People may not remember exactly what you did  or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. You don’t tell people about your customer service, they experience it.

Most companies focus on how to get the customer’s money, great companies focus on what happens after they get the customer’s money.

Focus on building  life-long relationships with your customers, don’t let stinky customer service kill your business.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | stockyimages

Bukie Iwajomo is the chief strategist at SalesForward Consulting. She works with start-ups, personal and consumers brands helping them leverage tech to grow their businesses and build badass brands. Follow her daily marketing tips on Instagram. You can also connect with her on Facebook

25 Comments

  1. viv

    November 5, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Insightful, thank you for this write up. will begin to strategize immediately

    • Bukie Iwajomo

      Bukie Iwajomo

      November 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks Viv. Glad you intend to implement the ideas. Success in your business.

  2. Debra

    November 5, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Quite informative. Thanks for sharing

  3. efe

    November 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    this is so insightful, Great Article.

  4. miss pynk

    November 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Well said. Bad customer service is like a badge of honor in Nigeria

  5. TANTRA

    November 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    If every employer who needs this takes it, they will be singing, ” I can see everything turning around for my good”. Well written. Message delivered.

  6. UB40

    November 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Naija the home of bad customer service, I can’t even begin to recount my experiences, most business owners do not take the time to train their staff in customer service and that is why a lot of small businesses collapse before they even begin operation.

    • Bukie Iwajomo

      Bukie Iwajomo

      November 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      So true, UB40.
      Sometimes the only the Customer Service staff are trained in this regard, forgetting that all other employees also need to understand and learn the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of excellent customer service.

    • Roastcornandube

      November 5, 2014 at 8:28 pm

      My dear it’s not just in Naija (physical), it’s also in Naija (mental)! It’s the same with Nigerian businesses here in the UK, particularly those that sell Nigerian/African food/groceries and hair salons. Even some restaurants are guilty of this.
      One in particular, newly opened, we went to check it out, only for them to serve us rice with over-spiced meat. It was so hot that we couldn’t even eat it. When we told the proprietor to provide a choice of spice ‘levels’ – mild, medium and hot – to suit his customers’ tastes, he just smiled in that patronising-I-feel-sorry-for-your-oyibo-head smile. Suffice it to say that the said restaurant has closed down.
      Giving them feedback nko? You don turn to destiny-killer be dat! [Oso chi egbu!}
      My dear, it’s terrible no be small thing…

  7. Shazy

    November 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    GTB/Swift and MTN need this to improve their customer service which is at the moment very poor!

  8. OluwaBee

    November 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    God bless you real good for this article!

    • Bukie Iwajomo

      Bukie Iwajomo

      November 5, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Thanks for reading, and for the blessings, OluwaBee.

  9. oluchy

    November 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Hire for attitude, train for skill, l like that. Nice and useful write up.

  10. Ephi

    November 5, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Nigeria in particular – lots of businesses/companies’ customer service sucks, as in sucks big time. Remember once when I followed my sis to the MTN cust care center, the girl literally sat there head tilted and rested on her hand like someone tired of life, chewing gum like it was going out of fashion. The same job many are out there looking for. Smdh. It would take a lot to “refine” this kind of employee. Truly, recruit for attitude not just skills.

    • Bukie Iwajomo

      Bukie Iwajomo

      November 5, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      You’re right Ephi.
      Many times, you can train for skills, but if someone has a bad attitude, there’s practically nothing you can do to change that. They will end up being a drain on the organizations resources.

    • D

      November 5, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      Soft skills

  11. MC

    November 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA HA Before my trip to Nigeria my friends all called to warn me about the customer service…well, lack of.

  12. Truth Teller

    November 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Excellent Peice. I believe MTN and ARIK air need to read this, ( emphasis on Arik). They have the worst customer service In the universe and for years, they just won’t improve, probably because they don’t have much competition.

  13. sifonde

    November 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Recommended and must read plus excellent write-up. most entrepreneurs should ditch that mentallity of handing over all their business to their “most entrusted” employees because they are making money and go back to the major basics of going into the business. i give excellent service and i expect same in return for whatever purchase i make.

  14. Lydia Edeoghon

    November 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Well put together! Quite insightful too. Keep it up Bukie.

  15. D

    November 5, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Maximize phone conversation!!! True story just yesterday infact, a colleague/friend is getting married in a month. Yes it is rushed so he had asked since his wife is not in the country and will be jjc when she arrives to help him get a good caterer. I got suggestions from people only for me to pick up the phone to call one of them yesterday, she hung up on me twice, the last time, she actually told me ” Call me back, call me back, I am busy abeg”. This is the US of A you would think she would be familiar with the idea of good customer service, You know I will never go to her and neither would this guy. People will call you and will have questions, you make time to speak to your customers. The vendor we will be going with was busy when I called but she said very nicely can I call you once I settle down and can give you all the information you need. And she did, Now the latter maximized phone conversation, the former didn’t.

  16. Pure Garment

    November 5, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Already strategizing, but for sure, I must connect with you, ll get in touch with you soon. Thank you so much Bukie for this wonderful piece. You made my night!!!

  17. Doug Sandler

    November 6, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Perfectly said, amazingly informative and so common sense….WOW your customer at every chance you can. Thanks for doing all you do to make #custserv PERFECT!!

  18. SB01

    November 8, 2014 at 5:15 am

    tell ’em

  19. Abiola Salami

    November 16, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Nice job. An excellent message from an incredible messenger.

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