News Of The South had the opportunity to meet a distinguished sales executive and professional, internationally published author, researcher, training consultant, an erudite scholar and certified Customer Service Strategist, Benson Mukandiwa and had the interview below.
The interview discusses the importance of great customer service and how to add real value for your clients. Mukandiwa has emerged as an outstanding non-fiction business author on Customer Service in Africa. This media caught up with Benson (BM) and discussed a number of issues concerning his new book on customer service.
Q: In your own words, who exactly is Benson Mukandiwa?
Benson Mukandiwa: I can say that I am, by training, by choice, by passion, a champion of purpose, leadership-management practitioner, team player, coach and highly motivational leader. Also by conviction a born again Christian. That is what I am most comfortable with.
Q: In a nutshell what is the theme of your book: “Customer and Employee Satisfaction”?
Benson Mukandiwa: Internal and external customer-satisfaction and retention have always been important issues for any kind of business venture. There is a positive and significant relationship between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction; these relationships are positive and statistically and substantively significant. Employee satisfaction is significantly related to service quality and to customer satisfaction, while the later in turn influences firm profitability leading to a satisfaction-quality-profit cycle.
It has been long established that organizations with a quality foundation have better leverage to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, but research has shown that a specific key driver of achieving customer satisfaction is employee satisfaction. The elements that lead to employee satisfaction and customer retention are said to have fundamental implications for corporate profitability. Unlike much of the mainstream literature, which generally focuses on the relationship between two of these three subjects
(employee satisfaction, customer retention, and corporate profitability), this book considers the effects, importance and reliance between all three.
Q: What does customer service mean to you?
Benson Mukandiwa: A customer is the conduit between the employee and any profit potential that an organization may realize. The most important thing for any business to remember is that ‘customer service’ is not a noun, it’s a verb. You need to be doing it, not saying it. And it’s also important to remember that it’s not just a question of whether you deliver customer service, it’s a question of how you do so. The right approach focuses more on delivering the positive experiences you know your customers actually want and less on getting them to hand over more cash. If you follow this customer centric approach to customer service, it results in loyal customers who know they can depend on your business as a reliable, trustworthy, and competent business that appreciates them, values the fact that they choose to spend their hard-earned cash with you, and knows that it’s a pleasure doing business with them.
Q: Has the importance of good customer service grown in developing countries (in Zimbabwe to be specific) ?
Benson Mukandiwa: Without a doubt! While good service has always been at the heart of business success, the world is a far more competitive place today than it was yesterday. And it will be more so tomorrow. It’s really not easy for businesses to compete on price anymore, so they have to find other ways of differentiating themselves from their competitors – and customer service is the one sure-fire way of doing that.
Any business can advertise, market, and run promotions – and given the tough economic climate, most are. But there are still very few businesses that understand the importance of great customer service – let alone practice service excellence. So, if your business does, and is, you’re already streets ahead of your competition. And it will show on your bottom line.
Conversely, the risk of failing to deliver great service is greater than ever. Social media has meant that the world has shrunk to the point that thousands, even millions, of people can instantly know about the bad (or good) experience a customer just had at your establishment. It’s worth making the customer service effort to maximise the chances that your business is ‘liked’.
Q: How important are employer/employee relationships to customer service?
Benson Mukandiwa: Mutual respect and understanding between employer and employee is critical. You cannot and will not achieve anything near the customer service commitment you desire if your employees couldn’t care less about your business. In many ways, realizing a solid customer service culture begins with cultivating a solid staff care and communication culture. When you recognize, acknowledge, and reward the value your employees add to your business, they respond by delivering more value. It’s a basic rule of business success and it lies at the heart of a customer service culture.
Q: Are there any starting points for businesses that want to improve their customer service?
Benson Mukandiwa: There are plenty of ways for any business to start a customer service improvement journey. The first step, though, is to get a clear understanding of why you’re doing it and what the consequences could be of not doing it.
Once you’ve done that for yourself as the business owner or manager, start by:
• Changing your culture. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s definitely do-able. Make sure your new customer centred strategy has top management buy-in, and then educate your staff on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This education never ends. You need to be a customer service champion and constantly remind everyone to keep on serving.
• Recruiting the right people. Focus less on looking just for the highest qualifications and more on employing people who have an obvious passion and positive attitude to serve and will genuinely care about your customers.
• Finding out what your customers actually want. Not only will they be happy to tell you what they expect from your business and its employees, they’ll feel good that you thought highly enough of them to ask in the first place.
Q: What are the basics of customer service that companies which want to edge its rivals should adhere to?
Benson Mukandiwa: It doesn’t matter what business you are in, there are five non-negotiable customer service priorities you simply have to deliver:
1. Make each customer feel genuinely special. They need to know you value their business.
2. Give your customers a voice. Listen to what they have to say.
3. Embrace complaints. Stop seeing the complaining customer as a ‘pain’ and start seeing them as loyal enough to tell you what’s wrong so that you can fix it, rather than simply going elsewhere.
4. Create great customer experiences. Customer service is not just a smile and friendly greeting; it’s a total positive experience from start to finish.
5. Never lose focus. Raising your service levels sets expectations. If your service declines, don’t expect your customers to just accept this. You need to strive to keep getting better, and they’ll keep coming back.
Q: What are the costs involved in good customer service?
Benson Mukandiwa: There is no cost, but there may be some investment required. The difference is that one drains your bank account while the other grows it. In reality, excellent customer service need not cost you anything. After all, how much does it cost to change your attitude? And in the long term, good customer service will actually drive your business costs down while driving the value for your customers up. That’s because when you do things right the first time, you actually save money – and your customer saves time and hassle.
Q: What motivated you to be an author?
Benson Mukandiwa: Inspired most by my brother Dr Innocent (Chirisa) Mahere, he ignited the flame of authoring .You will notice that I dedicated this book to the two most important women in my life (my late mother Beatrice and wife Martha), and my late father Benson (Snr), he was a wide reader who always inspired me by quoting Sir Francis Bacon’s words Writing Makes An Exact Man.My father always inspired me to go a step further, hence I saw it necessary to translate his imparted inspired knowledge into action, by being an exact man. According to Sir Francis Bacon, “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” Writing about what one has read with attention adds meaning and clarity to one’s work and one’s life.
Q: What’s your word of advice to inspire someone out there?
Benson Mukandiwa: Knowledge is not enough. Knowledge is not power; it only becomes power when it has been exploited. Use the knowledge that you have and transform your life. Money is only powerful when it has been used. What information have you gathered? What are you doing to make the knowledge work for you? Where planning is absent, failure is inevitable. Have a plan of action that will guide you. If you are in business, how do you intend to execute your goals? How do you intend to implement your marketing plan? How do you plan to promote teamwork amongst your employees? What are you going to do to ensure that you are faithful to the plan of action? If you are a student, what is your plan for studying? In life there is always a competing force, so you have to be tenacious, hands-on, be a self starter with great zeal for challenges in life, be ambitious and be prepared to take pride in working for glory from a zero base.
Copies of books by Mukandiwa are available on sale at premier online stores such as Amazon, Books on Demand BOD and other online bookstores.
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