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Tuesday, 06 June 2017 11:19

WHAT IS CUSTOMER SERVICE?

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Customer service has been defined in many ways by many people but essentially it is the provision of professional , helpful, high quality, services and assistance to customers before, during and after a purchase.  Customer support on the other hand involves a range of customer services aimed at assisting the customer in making smarter decisions like, what and how to buy, the effective use of a product, , installation guide, planning, maintain ante, troubleshooting and disposal of the product. When these support services are carried out at the customers end , where he/she uses the product or service it is called "at home customer support" . Technical support involves the provision of support with respect to technology products such as mobile phones, television, computers, software products, or other electronic or mechanical goods. 

Customer service is provided in different ways to customers but three broad channels stand out, they are:

1. By person. This employs the use of people to carry out specific duties aimed at customer service. Example the customer service rep you see in the bank, the sales rep of an organization. Organizations that care about their brand and its perception put in a lot of resources  into training their customer service representatives. Though costly, it brings great rewards for the organizations. 

 2. Automated means. The automated means of customer service increases an organizations ability to provide service 24 - hours a day which compliments customer service by person. Examples include Internet sites and touch-tone phones. With this method, customer service Reps are able to meet the needs of an increased number of customers. 

 3. Artificial means. Customer service provided by artificial means are done through the use of automated online assistants that can be seen as Avatars on websites. This method is effective in reducing the operating and training costs of organizations but it lacks the personal experience of deal with a real person. Automated online assistants are are driven by chatterbots and a technology that runs natural language processing. 

So now, you know the three means of providing customer service. Have you been served through  any of these means?  Or through all of them? What  means of providing customer service do you prefer the most? 

Written by: Lazine Ezinne. (Financial Services expert)

The global business landscape is evolving ever rapidly, and new knowledge in a given field of study has remained eternally indispensable. With business disruptions of every kind happening at an unimaginable rate, business owners have become critical about how their business offerings are perceived by those they have been prepared for. In this article, customer service magazine intends to probe the challenges of the service sector in Nigeria with probable solutions provided.

It is often said that production is not complete until the particular goods and services gets to those it has been prepared for. But in our investigation, we have come to postulate that production is not complete until there is exceptional satisfaction down the value chain. Production cannot be said to be complete until the Consumer is satisfied. The vehicle that drives and sustains the desired level of satisfaction down the value chain is known as the service industry. The potency of the service industry is determined by its ability to offer and sustain exceptional product satisfaction, reduce business cycle time, process transcendence, profit maximization and business excellence to it’s owners.

With this in mind, the service sector in Nigeria is the highest employer of labor in Nigeria. The service industry in Nigeria is not potent enough to compete on a grand scale. In reviewing Nigeria's service sector, we are investigating the combined efforts of public services and private business services.

As businesses jostle to get their products faster to consumers, the service sector expands. What then is the service industry? The service industry is the mechanism that determines how the quality of information, processes and products are managed in order to deliver exceptional satisfaction within the value chain. How society views this mechanism has differentiated one society from the other. A well structured service industry has differentiated one business from the other.

Nothing challenges the service sector as much as: stiff business competition and disruption; archaic business processes; unmonitored customer preferences etc. With this changes happening ever rapidly, this is not the era for businesses, government leaders and society to switch of its thinking Cap. The greatest goal of any organisation or business should be the delivery of unlimited exceptional convenience(satisfaction).

Nigeria is presently challenged by a poorly developed service sector, largely because those who have been placed in positions of authority cannot phantom the innate necessity of the service sector to the successful survival and coexistence of humanity. A healthy service industry in Nigeria will innovate various sectors of any economy. A good service industry in Nigeria will transform poor transportation, poor health care, high infant and maternal mortality rates as well as diseases etc. Without a resilient service sector, national growth remains stunted. An improved service industry, be it in government or business has a central focus of transcending itself to offer convenience. A thorough understanding of the importance of the service industry determines economic success.

The challenges of the service sector ranges as follows: Displayed ignorance of the potency of the service sector by politicians, civil servants and business owners. Patronage of obsolete technology is equally a major challenge in the service sector. Another challenge is the training and manpower gaps.

Corruption in public service is equally a major challenge in the service industry. Nigeria's path to economic success is hinged on its ability to transcend its service industry to cater to the teaming needs of the citizens. Until the service sector reforms are set in motion to momentarily review and resolve challenges as they occur, economic and accelerated societal excellence remains a mirage.

Consumer protection, safety and overall wellbeing remains the function of policy makers and government process regulators. Every economy seeking to enhance the wellbeing of its consumer population, must restrict bad business practices and products from circulation. To prevent consumers from sharp trade practices of certain business organizations, the competition law was created. The competition law has thus become a vital economic tool employed by governments of many nations to safeguard its citizens from foreign exploitation as well bad business practices of companies within.

By definition, Competition law is a law that promotes or seeks to maintain market competition by regulating anticompetitive conduct by companies. Competition law is implemented through public and private enforcement. Its aim and objective is simply for the wellbeing of consumers.

So many developed and developing countries have taken the bold step to setting up a robust competition and consumer policy frame work. The benefits of the competition law in the EU for instance has led to better consumer welfare, stable prices of commodities, availability of quality products through out the year, products and services innovation etc.

In Nigeria today, so many unhealthy business practices are allowed to go on because of the absence of a well structured body dealing with competition issues. Nigeria has only scratched the surface of competition Issues only on sectorial basis. At the present moment, the federal government through the legislators have seen the need for better business practices to exist within the economy. So many organisations have indulged in monopolizing the market of certain products thus defining an unrealistic selling price. Before the deregulation of some key sectors of the economy, many services were expensive and epileptic. The rate of consumer dissatisfaction was very low, coupled with the fall in product quality.

In monopolies we have seen agencies like NEPA, NITEL, Nigerian Airways, National bank etc all deregulated for efficient service delivery and innovation.

Today, consumers are no longer pinned down by government agencies alone, today some private businesses have become the nightmares of many Nigerian consumers. The following bad business practices have been allowed to thrive:

  • Business monopoly
  • Product hording
  • Illicit merger
  • Drop in product quality
  • Price hike
  • Product bundling

 

Once the Federal Competition and consumer bill becomes law, consumers will be protected from harmful business practices. Without these law, consumer rights will be trampled upon and defaulting companies will get away with a lot of crimes.

  • The competition law safeguards the well being of the Consumer by ensuring that there is a healthy business competition among companies.
  • That products are readily available in varieties for consumers to choose from
  • The prevention of unhealthy mergers by big organizations who intended defrauding the consumer.
  • Ensuring steady price of products and services.
  • Protecting consumers from unhealthy product bundling services for consumers.

Consumers have the right to unite and support the passing into law of the competition bill currently at the senate. Every consumer deserves to be safe.

Consumer safety is the responsibility of everyone. When the competition is law in place, consumers in Nigeria will be glad that their welfare will be taken care of. The competition law will further strengthen the rights of consumers. The competition law will guide how businesses think and operate.

With the competition law, businesses will have no other option than to ensure only quality services and products are allowed into circulation in the market.

With the competition law, business activities of organizations and companies will be evaluated to ensure strict compliance to lay down procedures. The competition law will save the Nigerian consumers from the claws of unethical business organizations. Support the competition bill, it is for the good of every Nigerian consumer. Everyone is a consumer.

Friday, 31 March 2017 09:39

FIVE WAYS TO BREAK OUT IN YOUR NEW BUSINESS

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New businesses, which have been freshly founded, and set in operation, are stereotyped to always have unprofitable outcomes. Nonetheless, this is never always the case. Indeed, new businesses can thrive, just as successfully as businesses which have been in existence for a longer period of time, do; such business owners, just have to be aware of factors they could imbibe, to make sure that the business succeeds. Some of these factors, are actually, not far fetched. They include:

  • WELL GROUNDED PUBLICITY

If anyone, at all, intends for something, or someone, to be known by others, such a person cannot just sit in their houses, cross their arms, and expect their intentions, and ambition to come to fruition. Something has to be done about it. This ‘something’, being talked about here, is known as publicity, and not just mere publicity, but a well-grounded one. For a newly founded business, well-grounded activities for publicity, must be established. You must go the whole nine yards, to make sure your business is viewed, or talked about, by anyone, and everyone. This means that you must utilize all forms of publicity you could use to showcase your business to the world. To be firmly grounded, if the resources are available, get a public relations officer, to handle the publicity of your business. If not, make sure you do not lazy around, or lag behind, in making use of the various other methods, which can be very beneficial in putting your business out there. Some of these methods are television, and radio adverts, blogs, and websites pop-ups, and posters, or handbills, among others.

  • HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE

There is a popular saying that goes ‘A good team makes the dream work’. Before you can think of growing your company, you have to have thought about the people who would help you achieve this growth. New businesses, must note that it is important to gather the right team of people, to move the business forward. Employing dedicated persons, who do not wait to be told, before they think outside the box, is a sure way of ensuring that the business has a rapid growth.

  • BE ADAPTABLE

As a new business owner, you must be ready to adapt to whatever kind of market you find yourself in. All you have to do, is just figure out ways that would make your business thrive, or stand out, among others, in the same market. Be agile, in your approach to change, as this exposes you to various other strategies, to excelling, in your business. Appeal to whatever is trending, or whatever the people love, at any particular time, or age, and fit that into the operation of your business.

  • POSSESS A STRONG SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

In recent times, social media seems to be the order of the day, in Nigeria, alone, over 100 million individuals are users of the internet, and social media, as well. Maximize this opportunity, where there are lots of people, who have access to viewing all about your business, on one social media platform, or more, at the same time. Your business must have a twitter account, Facebook, Instagram, as well as a LinkedIn account. Through these forms of media, you can project your business, more, to the whole world, which eventually, increases the bottom line of your business, as people would start to patronize you, pending on how you entice them, and convince them to do so, through social media.

  • TAKE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE INTO COGNISANCE

This includes the customer feedback, as well as how they out rightly show you, in passing, that they feel about patronizing your business. When a customer has a great experience, they would definitely want to come back so many other times, in the future, to do business with you, again. Customers’ perception of your business goes a long way in making, or breaking your business, altogether. Consequently, the customer experiences must be noted, this helps the business owner decipher where the business is lagging, and what areas of the business’ services, customers do not like, or slightly, have a problem with. Learning the customers’ experience, can help fix the problem, or avert that issue, completely. Always respond to the needs of your customers. If customer needs are ignored, the business may never progress, for the simple reason that every business appeals to a certain target of customers, and it is whatever those customers want, the business, must work towards delivering.

 

 

 

Friday, 31 March 2017 09:23

ETISALAT HOLDS CUSTOMER FORUM

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Etisalat Nigeria, has held the quarterly Customer Forum, to interactively engage  her customers. The forum, serves as a platform for customers to give their feedback, on their experiences from using the products, and services Etisalat has to offer.

The first quarter of the 2017 edition of the forum, flagged off in Kwara State, on March 16th.

Some Etisalat representatives, intimated the customers on benefits of using the Etisalat network, and sourced for suggestions from customers in that region, on how the network can serve them better.

A customer, Christina Odigie, disclosed how the Etisalat network has assisted her greatly, in improving her business. ‘‘I work for a fashion magazine, so I am always online, to stay ahead of fashion trends. I also stream videos, and download media. I must confess, that Etisalat’s data quality is second to none’’, she said.

The Kwara State Commissioner for Environment, Otunba Taiwo Joseph, also commended the efforts of Etisalat, in responding in a timely fashion, to the complaints of the customers. He also emphasized that he had some challenges with his Etisalat line, and as soon as he laid a complaint to that effect, at the Etisalat Experience Centre, it was fixed in no time at all. ‘‘Since then, I have been enjoying both data, and voice services, without complaint’’, he expressed.

Etisalat Customer Forum has helped the network provide better services, across the country, in key cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Portharcourt, Kaduna, Ibadan, and Benin, among others.

In the same vein, the Brand and Experience Director, Elvis Ogiemwanye, revealed that feedback gotten from previous Customer Forums, have helped the company develop more innovative products, and services, which solve everyday problems for customers.

 

 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017 11:16

BUILDING A STRONG CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAM

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Every organisation, company, or business, must have a very strong customer service team, as it is the customer service agents that make the total customer experience, one to always remember, as pleasant. The customer service team comprises persons who cater to the questions, enquiries, and overall needs of the customers. They serve as a major touch point, in the entire customer experience. This customer service team, must be created by a management, which understands the rudiments of picking great, and competent individuals, to make up the customer service team. There are some pointers that the management of any company, or business, should look out for, when picking out their teams for customer service delivery. Some of these pointers include making sure the prospective team members, are caring, and very knowledgeable about the business’ products, and services, but to mention a few.

Being ‘caring’, as one of the yardsticks for becoming a team member for customer service delivery, is a major factor, which must not be compromised on. When team members are being picked out, it must be considered that only caring persons are selected, as the whole idea of customer service deals with tendering to customer needs, which can never be realised, if the Customer Service Agent (CSA) does not care about the concerns of customers. The team members must be caring enough to run the business, like it were theirs. This means that the potential CSA must possess the ability to view the business, as though they were the bosses, or C.E.O of the company, and not just as an employee, or ordinary team member of the company. Everyone who owns a business, always works towards making sure that business thrives; no one wants their business to become a failure. Consequently, if the CSAs see the business, as their own, they would do all they can, to make sure the business flourishes, at the end of the day.

Also, in building a strong customer service (CS) team, the management, or expert hired to do the selection, must seek out selfless team members, who are dedicated, and results-driven. Team members of any customer service team, must be selfless; they must, at all times, think of ways to make the customers happy, at all costs, so long as they do not imbibe illegal, or corrupt practices in doing that. They must be empathic about whatever situation the customers find themselves in, and selflessly help out, to make the customers have a glad, and satisfactory experience, amidst the initial sour nature of their patronage experience. Such team members, must also be very dedicated, and driven; potential CSAs must have been observed to be very committed to their work, even in tough times. Murmurers, and lazy hands, are not needed in a customer service team, which is expected to deliver great customer experiences to the customer. Only individuals, who are driven to the sole cause of customer service delivery, must be selected to be on the CS team.

Bad attitudes must not be tolerated; individuals with terrible attitudes, are not expected to be on the CS team. Bad attitudes would only put the customers off, and no business wants to have customers who are always put off by poor attitudes of CSAs. Individuals vying to be on the customer service team, must be properly sifted, so as to know the ones with good attitudes, as well as the ones without. The latter would only break, and not build a good CS team, which eventually, destroys the entire customer experience, to shreds.

Most importantly, in building a strong CS team, individuals being considered, must be vastly knowledgeable of the products, and services which the company offers. Product, and process knowledge of any business, or company, by CSAs, is very necessary, in answering the questions customers may have, as well as in the solving process. Putting someone, who has little, or no knowledge of the products, and services of the business, and the company as a whole, is as good as placing a moron behind a desk, to answer to customers. This should be completely avoided, when picking out a strong CS team.

To be able to determine which individuals fit into all these qualities, that is, to know persons who are caring, dedicated, have a good attitude, and are knowledgeable of the products, and services of the company, testing, and, or, probation must be carried out. This process involves giving prospective CS team members, a time frame, to exhibit these qualities, which would help them perform excellently, in customer service delivery. After the probation, proper sifting can then be done, to pick out the ones most appropriate, and skilled for the job, from the ones who performed averagely. Putting the aforementioned tips into cognizance, when picking out individuals to be on a Customer service team, would help a great deal, in building a strong team at that. 

Monday, 27 March 2017 09:25

WELDER DUPES CUSTOMER

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An Abuja based Welder, Known as Hassan Joshua, 38, has been arraigned, and eventually, arrested, for collecting money from a customer, and absconding with it.

 

The case, which was reported at Gwarimpa Police Station, has been reviewed in court, by Judge Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq, of Karmo Grade 1 Area Court, Abuja. Hassan, was reported to have invested one of his customers’ money, in the money doubling Ponzi scheme, Movrodi Mondial Movement, popularly known as ‘MMM’.

 

The amount of money involved, is said to be Four Hundred, and Thirty Thousand Naira (430,000).

 

According to the prosecutor, Zannah Dalhatu, the money was given to the defendant, Hassan Joshua, for the construction of water tanks, and doors. , “After collecting the money, he refused to do the work and he absconded to an unknown destination’’, Mr Dalhatu told the court.

 

The judge pointed out that such an offence is punishable under Sections 312 and 322 of the Penal Code. Mr Hassan, was thereby sentenced to two months imprisonement, and was also ordered by the court, to pay back the customer’s money, with a ten thousand naira fine.

 

Monday, 27 March 2017 09:12

SHOWING CUSTOMERS THEY ARE NEEDED

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It is not enough to just have a huge customer base, but what makes the entire customer experience more fulfilling, is that they know the company they do business with, or patronise regularly, really need their patronage. When the customers know that the company truly depends on them, and their particular patronage targets, then said customers would be more than pleased to continue doing business with such a company. As a business, organisation, or company, showing customers that you need their patronage, deals with a lot of rudiments. However, one major key to making your customers be rest assured that indeed, your company needs them, is ‘listening’.

The art of listening is very important, in relating with the customers. This art is a very delicate one, as it does not only involve opening your ears to hear what the customers say, but fully entails paying deep attention to every single detail the customers lay down in the process of complaints, or asking questions. The Customer Service Agents (CSAs), or any other touch point of the company, who the customer encounters, must possess great listening skills; they must always pay attention to the customer. Listening closely to customers, especially when you have offered them a lot of options, make them feel, and know that you are interested in hearing their take on the options you gave, debunking the impression that you may be trying to impose those options on them. Customers must be given a chance to make their own choices, of course, after critically divulging all that the CSA tells them about what they can do. During this process, the CSA must listen patiently, and know what the customer decides. It is at this point (after listening), that the CSA can then give their two cents, with regards to whatever the customer decides.

 ‘Smile always’. Smiling always lights up a room, no matter the atmosphere or aura the room has. Making the customer happy, no matter the mood they walked into your business, or company with, is utmost. The customer feels needed, if they are welcomed with a smile, and of course, attended to, with warmth, and a smiley face. CSAs must not be frustrated by the customers’ attitudes, or mood,

 

but try their best possible, to still make the customer feel happy, and needed, amidst the whole gloominess. Customers must not be passed off, or irked by a frowny faced CSA. All CSAs, and other touch points in the company, must always put up a smile on their faces, when encountering a customer, as customers feel more comfortable relating to people in the company, who welcome them warmly, and look like they are more than pleased to attend to their needs. This makes the customer feel very much needed by the company; it makes them know that the company holds them in high esteem.

Your appearance, and attitude must also show that you want the customer to patronise, or invest on our business. Body language speaks volumes, when making ordinary interactions or communication with anyone at all, talk more of with someone who you want something from. The staff attitude towards customers, must be one of good value. Do not murmur, roll your eyes, or act in other abstract manners that tell the customers that you do not want to speak to them, and thereby, do not need them to patronise the company’s products, and services. Your appearance must exude your intentions, about you wanting them to invest in your business. ‘Look like what you want’; show them you are extremely interested in working with them, or having them purchase your products, or services. The appropriate appearance in convincing the customers that they are needed, is one of poise, seriousness. Do not dress shabbily, or in a nonchalant fashion, when speaking to customers, or prospective customers, about patronising your business. In the area of attitude, do not exhibit the vice-like attitudes that tell the customers that you are unprofessional, and unready for business. Do not be rude, stand offish, quick to judge, or arrogant, when dealing with the customers. These vices would not make the customer feel welcomed into your company, and when they start feeling that way, nothing, and no one can convince them to patronise your company, as they would feel their patronage is not needed. In the same vein, non-verbal communication must convey a good impression in the customers’ mind.

Generally, the customer must be made to feel like they are needed, both abstractly, and in physical terms too. 

Monday, 27 March 2017 09:09

SON UNCOVERS EXPIRED PRODUCTS

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The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), has uncovered a four-storeyed building, in Lagos, where expired products are stored for repackaging, and reselling.

The discovery was made by Officials of SON, with the help of tip offs, from members of the public, who had suspected that something unusual was going on in the building. ‘‘We acted on the intelligence we received from well-meaning Nigerians’’, Engr. Bede Obayi, SON Director of Monitoring, and Compliance, disclosed to reporters on the scene.

Various expired products, such as body creams, baby diapers, cosmetics, etc., were reported to have been found on the scene. The perpetrators of this act, operated by getting rid of the labels, which had the expiry dates of the products, and replacing it will freshly printed labels, with new expiry dates. These new labels, were then glued onto the expired products, to make consumers think it was still effective, and had not yet expired.

The Director expressed his dismay, with regards to the situation, saying ‘‘These are baby diapers, which expired since 2015. Imagine the reaction it would give to babies, if used in 2017’’.

Obayi went ahead to point out, that most of the products, were imported, and the importers bought them from overseas, even though they knew they were expired.

His reason for this act, was that they probably knew there was a ready market in Nigeria, which would rapidly patronise the expired products, unknowingly, to them.

The SON Director, also revealed to journalists, present, that the building was disguised in such a way that, no one would quickly know that illegalities, were being performed, inside of it. The clothes on lines, at the balconies of some of the flats, could never easily give the building, and its evil plots, away.

Friday, 17 March 2017 12:41

AISHA BUHARI REDEFINING CONSUMER RIGHTS

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Her excellency, Hajia Aisha Buhari, has urged Nigerians to know their consumer rights, so they can be protected against market exploitations, and abuses. Represented by the wife of Nassarawa state Governor, Mrs Buhari, at the commemorative event for World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), assured the people, of her unending, and unadulterated support for Consumers, as they patronise different goods, and services.

The event, which was organised by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), held at Nigeria Air Force (NAF)  Conference, Gwarimpa, Federal Capital Territory. The CPC named Mrs Buhari, the Consumer Ambassador of Nigeria, on the 15th day of July, 2016.

The theme of the WCRD 2017, was ‘Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust’. According to the Director General of the CPC, Mrs Dupe Atoki, it was only appropriate that Mrs Aisha Buhari, flagged off the event, to inspect exhibition stands of businesses involved in the use of digital systems, telecommunications providers, and many others who were involved in digitization. ‘Her excellency, is the right person to identify with the World Consumer Rights Day Cause’, Dr. Atoki said.

Mrs Buhari expressed her profound gratitude to the Consumer Protection Council, for honouring her as the CPC Ambassador. She also added that the campaign against consumer exploitation, is a noble cause, which she pledges to stay true to, and continue to bring to light.

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