Makandi Muchiri is a specialist in customer experience. She is the Senior Manager, Customer Experience at Family Bank. She also loves children, and spends her weekends teaching in Sunday School. Her other hobbies include swimming, cooking or hosting game nights.
What did you study in university?
I graduated with an Economics and Sociology degree from Kenyatta University. When taking the course in economics course, I had no clear idea where I was going with it, but studying sociology turned out to be the best decision I ever made. It expanded my horizon, changed my perspective, and made me realise that there are so many ways I could put my knowledge in economics to good use. It also made me realise that I was passionate about the wellbeing of others.
What was your experience like in college?
I had a deep desire to increase my knowledge. I made a conscious decision to take more classes so that I could graduate within the shortest time possible. I spent most of my time studying in the library, and visiting my family and friends. At that time, I thought that things would move so fast in my life. I thought I'd graduate, get a job, buy a house, buy a car, get married and get children almost instantaneously.
I now realise that many times as a young person, you always dream of moving to the next level without realising that you first need to learn from your current situation. My goal was to complete my studies and move on, but I have since learnt that everything has its time. When I look at how I started my career and where I am now, I realise that the rush to get things done and move on with life was not so necessary.
If you were to change anything about your life at university, what would it be?
After working for over 10 years, I have realised that there is a lot more to be achieved from university than just education. School is meant to equip you with the ability to think. Once you start working, you realise that there is so much you need to learn. And you will learn more through experience.
Therefore, if I could turn back the clock, I would invest in more practical experiences such as internships in the areas I was interested in. Additionally, I would try to get a mentor to guide me through my career journey.
How did you end up here?
After being unable to get a job after graduation, I negotiated a deal with my parents where I worked for them as a house help and got paid for my work. After six months working at home, I got a job as an insurance sales person. It is from that job that I got my big break.
A company which I had approached while I was selling insurance policies finally signed up and I made my biggest sale. My bosses were so impressed, that I was promoted to Team Leader.
Shortly afterwards, I was promoted again and made supervisor of a newly set up call centre, before being handed a new role as a Supervisor of Customer Service and then an Assistant Manager, Customer Service. I achieved all this over time and through hard work.
How did you get into customer experience?
After working in customer service, I realised that in Kenya, customer service is very fragmented, mostly because there are no specific qualifications required for the job. With this knowledge, I decided to conduct online research and acquaint myself with what other organisations were doing. While doing this, I came across a concept called Customer Experience, which appeared to be the next frontier.
However, I hadn't heard much about it in Kenya, yet it was a really interesting idea and was a lot wider than customer service. I did a short proposal on it and shared it with our head of department who presented it to the board. After that, the department changed from Customer Service to Customer Experience and I got to be the assistant manager.
With my new expertise, I wanted to be into an organisation that had a specific department for customer service. When I learnt about a vacant position at Family Bank through LinkedIn, I applied and that is how I got to here.
What is the difference between customer experience and customer service?
Customer service tends to be reactionary, while customer experience is about being proactive. Customer service is about offering customers assistance, support or guidance, but customer experience is a way of improving all interactions between a company and its customers.
In customer experience, we take into account the perception of customers as they interact with an organisation. If you can meet your customers' needs adequately, he or she will be loyal to you, that is the goal of customer experience.
What does one need to get into this new career?
First, you need to develop some soft skills. You need to have empathy rather than sympathy because you will often be required to put yourself in someone else's shoes. You need to help provide a solution that can solve someone's problem. Additionally, you need to have good communication and interpersonal skills.
What do you like most about your job?
The best part of my day is meeting new customers. I always strive to create something new for my customers, and the only way to know if the new product is effective is to get the views of the consumer. Meeting our clients helps me get valuable feedback. That way, I am able to adjust our strategies so that we can meet the customers' expectations.