17 July 2017

Ghana: Excellent Customer Service Is Key

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... Happy Forson

There is the popular adage that says "Customers may forget what you said but they'll never forget how you made them feel". Currently where competition for the limited market share and customers, is skyrocketing on daily basis, excellent customer service is the catalytic tool Financial institutions such as investment banks, Universal banks, microfinance companies, savings & loans, and even general businesses as a whole can use to attract and maintain customers. Marketers and sales persons of investment institutions are hawking the streets of Ghana virtually begging customers to invest with them. Some marketers are even going to the length of promising potential clients gifts and so on if only they will patronize investment portfolios of their companies. But like the American proverb says, "keeping a customer demands as much skill as winning one".

The term "customer service" evokes different images in people's minds. One image could be that of friendly, smiling, helpful employees who go out of their way to serve you. Or it could be the opposite - indifferent, unfriendly employees who can't wait for you to leave or hang up the phone. Most people can recall many examples of poor customer service. Whether it's the front/help desk employee that puts you on hold for 20 minutes or the store cashier who engages in a personal conversation instead of ringing up your purchase, poor customer service can make people feel frustrated and vow never to do business with that company again.

On the other hand, great service feels like a gift. It makes us want to continue to do business with an organization over and over again. And that alone is the secret to business success - retaining customers by providing great customer service. With so much competition out there, customer loyalty is the single most important attribute your business can have. You achieve loyalty by doing "the little things" that make customers want to deal with you repeatedly and recommend you to their friends for the delightful experience. The real difference is how a business makes their customers feel. If customers feel valued, most will remain loyal. If they feel under-valued, sooner or later they will move to a competitor.

With many investment banking organizations competing with one another over the quality of investment products and affordability of prices, it is imperative to focus on providing superior customer service in order to gain loyalty. To do that, there are a few steps every investment institution needs to follow to ensure that the canker of poor investment culture that has been rearing its ugly head at the industry is a phenomenon of the past.

Look through the "lens of the customer"

It is an indisputable fact that investment thrives on relationships. There is no two ways about it- without customers, investment institutions do not exist. For this reason, it is imperative that investment institutions learn how to make their customers feel comfortable. This, you can only do when you learn to look through the lens of the customer. Realize that customers can be shoppers at a store, patrons at a bank, patients of a doctor, clients of a lawyer, or even other businesses as a whole hence do not look down on any potential customer. Because customers have a choice of where to invest their monies, the investment institution has to convince the customer that they truly care.

An engaged, caring employee raises the customer's confidence that the business is looking out for the customer's interests. When that employee suggests a new product or service, the customer trusts that his or her best interest is at heart. On the flip side, if the customer senses a lack of caring, he/she will question the motives behind any recommendations. Every business has its jargon, so be careful to speak in a language that customers understand. Successful businesses speak the language of the customer, not necessarily the language of their own industry. See the world through the eyes of the customer even if it means adjusting.

The same applies for customer complaints, which can be frustrating for customers and employees alike. As employees, we often cannot understand why a customer is making such a big deal about a particular issue. Didn't the customer read the contract? (Probably not.) Doesn't the customer understand that researching a problem takes time? (No. They don't.) Remember, it's not the customer's job to see through the business's lens; it's the business's job to see through the customer's lens and show an understanding for the customer's frustration. Remember that the customer did not sit in class with you to learn how interest rates are calculated so the next time you are working with a customer, stop and ask yourself: "Am I seeing this experience through the customer's lens?" Go beyond merely communicating with the customer to connecting with him!

When it comes to a company's environment, recognize that "everything speaks"

Imagine visiting a fine dining restaurant for a special occasion. You've been looking forward to the meal and you've heard good things about the restaurant. Then imagine noticing something crusty dried to your silverware and old lipstick marks on your water glass. Wouldn't you begin worrying about the cleanliness and quality of everything else in the restaurant? Everything speaks!

Remember that customers are people just like us and different personality types come to play. Do not be shocked if a customer decides not to invest with your organization because your offices are always untidy. No matter how high expected returns you promise a customer or the wonderful image your institution has managed to carve for itself, if the customer doesn't feel safe in your environment; forget it. Now imagine a customer entering your place of business. She notices trash in the parking lot. When she enters the reception area, she sees delivery boxes stacked by the receptionist's desk. She sees employees standing around eating and having personal conversations. All these detracts from your business's image. It either consciously or unconsciously raises the customer's antennae or makes them question, "Do I really want to give my money to these people?" Creating a wonderful ambience alone can make the investment industry grow beyond the wildest imaginations of industry players. Take a moment to think about your company's environment. Everything speaks; the environment in general, the dressing of employees, even the welcoming smile of the security guard, the front desk executive all the way to the Managing Director. The environment should make the customer feel like royalty.

Go the extra mile

To get and maintain customers requires going the extra mile. In this day and age where a few investment institutions have managed to tarnish the image of the industry, going the extra mile is paramount to the growth of the industry. Make the customer comfortable by acknowledging the receipt of his investment; even when you do not have to do so. Do not stop there! Give feedback in the form of statements on a regular basis. Say, a customer patronizes a one-year investment portfolio, and the status quo is to provide a bi-annual statement. Do not stick to the status quo! Go the extra mile by sending the customer a monthly update of how his investment is doing. This is an indication of transparency and will naturally birth trust- a definite requirement for monetary exchanges.

Don't stop there! Make it a priority to wow the customer. Wowing the customer more often than not does not require much effort. Simple things like remembering the customer's name is a huge wow, as it creates a feeling of family. Letting the customer know that another product may better meet their needs is another wow. Sending a goody basket with a handwritten note to the customer during festivities or even text messages or emails on occasions such as birthdays can go a long way to wow the customer. Some wows are small and some are large, but make no mistake about it - wows add up.

Going the extra mile also means spending extra on training of customer service persons in your organization. The world is moving towards the trend of "customer service is the new marketing". So no investment institution with the desire to see an increase in patronage of their products should exclude customer service training in their marketing strategy. Spend money for quality training and you will see results.

CONCLUSION

Excellent customer service comes with so many advantages for the investment banking industry. Notable among the many advantages is repeat business and referrals (growth factors for the industry). They are undeniably the end product of excellent customer service. I agree with business author Michael LeBoeuf when he says "A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all." One satisfied customer is likely to bring in more business for the investment institution than perhaps, ten marketers or sales persons. Be nice to your customers, sit back and watch the industry grow. Excellent Customer service MUST be guaranteed to every customer not "Lip services"

Happy Forson

Managing Director

McOttley Capital Ltd

Ghana

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