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Tuesday, 06 June 2017 11:15

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)

Tuesday, 06 June 2017 11:15

WHAT IS CUSTOMER SERVICE?

Written by

  

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)

Thursday, 09 March 2017 09:33

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 yardstick 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 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, and eventually destroy 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 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 cognisance, when picking out individuals to be on a Customer service team, would help a great deal, in building a strong team at that. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015 17:34

Need For Good Data Management In Customer Service

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Businesses today understand that data is an important enterprise asset, relied on by customer-facing employees to deliver on their customers' needs, among other uses. Yet too few sales, marketing, and customer service professionals realize that addressing data quality is necessary to move the needle on customer satisfaction. A recent Forrester survey shows that fewer than 20 per cent of companies see data management as a factor in improving customer relationships.

Inattention to data quality can have a big impact both on companies and the customers they serve. Following are just two examples:

Garbage in/garbage out erodes customer satisfaction. Customer service agents need to have the right data about their customers, their purchases, and prior service history presented to them at the right point in the service cycle to deliver answers. When their tool sets pull data from low-quality data sources, decision quality takes a hit, leading to significant rework and customer frustration.

Lack of trust in data has a negative impact on employee productivity. Customer-facing employees begin to question the validity of underlying data when data inconsistencies and quality issues are left unchecked. This means employees will often ask a customer to validate product, service, and customer data during an interaction—which makes the interaction less personal, increases call times, and instils in the customer a lack of trust in the company.

The bottom line: High-quality customer data is required to support every point in the customer journey and ultimately deliver the best possible customer experience to increase loyalty and revenue. So how can firms most effectively manage their data quality?

While CRM applications can play a role in this process, they can't solve the data-quality issue by themselves. A common challenge heard from our clients, as they rethink their existing CRM applications, is the inability to obtain a complete trusted view of the customer. This is where third-party data-quality solutions must come into play. To get started on the data-quality journey, application developers should consider a five-step process:

  1. Don't view poor data quality as a disease. Instead, it is often a symptom of      broken processes. Using data-quality solutions to fix data without addressing      changes in a CRM application will yield limited results. CRM users will      find a work-around and create other data-quality issues. Balance new      data-quality services with user experience testing to stem any business      processes that are causing data-quality issues.
  2. Be specific about dirty data's impact on business effectiveness. Business      stakeholders are flush with data-quality frustrations. Often, they will      describe poor data as "missing," "inaccurate," or      "duplicate" data. Step beyond these adjectives to find out why      these data-quality issues affect business processes and engagement with      customers. These stories provide the foundation for business cases,      highlight what data to focus on, and show how to prioritize data-quality      efforts.
  3. Scope the data-quality problem. Many a data-quality program begins with a      broad profiling of data conditions. Get ahead of bottom-up approaches that      are disconnected from CRM processes. Assess data conditions in the context      of business processes to determine the size of the issue in terms of dirty      data and its impact at each decision point or step in a business process.      This links data closely to business-process efficiency and effectiveness,      often measured through key performance indicators in operations and at      executive levels.
  4. Pick the business process to support. For every business process supported      by CRM, different data and customer views can be created and used. Use the      scoping analysis to educate CRM and customer stakeholders on business      processes most affected and the dependencies between processes on commonly      used data. Include line-of-business executives in the discussion as a way      to get commitment and a decision on where to start.
  5. Define recognizable success by improving data quality. Data-quality efforts      are a key component of data governance that should be treated as a      sustainable program, not a technology project. The goal is always to      achieve better business outcomes. Identify qualitative and quantitative      factors that demonstrate business success and operational success. Take a      snapshot of today's CRM and data-quality conditions and continuously      monitor and assess them over time. This will validate efforts as effective      and create a platform to expand data-quality programs and maintain on-going      support from business stakeholders and executives.

No doubt about it, the multi billion Naira online shopping business space has come to stay in Nigeria but not of Nigerian or by Nigerian. Maybe not far away too, the brick and mortar retail may go the same way.

The business-like attitude to online retail really started with DealDey.com, the life is better online crooner, offering juicy daily deals for interested shoppers. The market entry pricing strategy offering huge discounts, sometimes as much as 80% off resonated with the target market. The bait had people flocking to the DealDey.com website to have a pick of juicy deals. And you could get just about anything on offer on the site.

Just name it, electronic gadgets, computing accessories and even discounted professional services. The business became so successful that one of the directors, Simdul Sagaya was convinced enough to launch his own dedicated online store, modelled after Amazon.com. He believed the market is huge especially with Nigeria’s teeming population. Thus began the story of Konga.com in June 2012 and the rest as they say, is history.

Sim Shagaya, though born in Nigeria, received most of his education in the US including an MBA from the prestigious Harvard Business School. He spent some time in the employ of Rand Merchant Bank in South Africa before joining Google and moving back to Nigeria to head the search giant’s strategy for the entire continent, excluding South Africa. While there, Shagaya started an out-of-home (OOH) business e-motion advertising, now managed by Paul Onyia as managing director and Tunde Folawiyo as Chaiman. You will recall that Folawiyo also sits on the board of MTN Nigeria and Access Bank Plc. E-motion advertising has grown to be one of the biggest in the OOH industry in Nigeria. He also invested heavily in DealDey and there is no information that he is out of the board of directors yet.

Konga.com, Nigeria’s biggest online mall invested heavily in advertising and the dividends are paying off. Its radio jingles have very catchy tunes that have several sing-along converts that are eventually led to visit and shop. It also launched its mobile app allowing users to shop from the comfort of their mobile devices and is very active on social media. Times are rosy and things are looking up for the retail giant.

However Konga.com today is involved in a long running battle with arguably its biggest competitor (?) in the Nigerian market, Jumia. If it were possible for Konga.com to have Jumia completely wiped off the online picture, it would. In January 2014, Konga.com threatened legal action against Rocket Internet because the latter had registered the Konga domain name in at least 11 African countries in a perceived attempt to stifle the growth of the Konga brand in strategic African markets.

Jumia, whose operations launched in May 2012 initially by Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Afeador, both Havard Business School graduates. Perhaps this duo and Shagaya even sat in the same class. After their initial efforts, the duo got funding from German-based Rocket Internet and as of today has successfully raised over $80 million in investment capital with Rocket Internet being the major investor in the start-up.

However, in the intervening period of two and a half years, there have been quite a few shake-ups in the Jumia boardroom. Tunde Kehinde resigned his position as joint MD/CEO in January 2014 and Raphael Afeador followed suit with both completely divesting from the company they founded. Since then Jumia has gone through a number of CEOs before currently berthing with Jonathan Doerr the current CEO. Speculations are rife that all the re-jigs in the company are planned and prompted from the Europe.

Albeit, these seeming boardroom issues have not stopped the company from growing stronger and improving its market share in the country. Jumia today is arguably positioned as Nigeria’s No 1 online retail store. The MTN group, through Africa Internet Holdings (AIH) owns a huge stake in Jumia through its 33.3% holding in AIH and Jumia’s site reflects this. It has the MTN badge throughout the site.

In between them, Konga.com and Jumia controls over 95 per cent of the online retail industry in Nigeria. Our findings are indicates that both entities are quite closer to each other than we may know of yet. In fact, one may be tempted to say Konga.com and Jumia are business cousins; AB Kinnevik, the Swiss based global investment company, became Konga.com’s lead investor. However, the company has a sister company, Millicom International Cellular S.A, who with Rocket Internet controls 66.6% of Africa Internet Holding stakes with MTN owning the remaining 33.3%. But Jumia is a company now wholly owned by AIH. Therefore, through webs of investors’ networks, someone, somewhere, who owns controlling interest in Kinnevik and Millicom, owns controlling interest in 95% of the online retail business in Nigeria! Never mind the facade of bickering.

The less than 10 per cent online market share split amongst many small players have AIH companies that currently play major roles in Nigeria’s online space, including EasyTaxi, Kaymu.com.ng,  Carmudi, Lamudi and Jovago.com. So in actual fact, there really is no real competition in the bottom-line for these players. After all, the profits may end up in the same place. Other online retailers who are outside the portfolio of these acclaimed investors, such as Tafoo.com and zetashop.com.ng are being stifled in the marketplace.

In actual fact, the online retail space is not an open market. What we have is a monopoly with one entity controlling 95 per cent of Nigeria’s online retail market space through a web of networks of holdings and investments.

Meanwhile, managing importation of all manner of products, scarce foreign exchange, import substitution policy and taxation issues are subject for another day. We have several Nigerian allowance-drawing board members, employment for logistics, packaging and account clerks that are Nigerians, may be good enough compensation for now.

Notwithstanding the clamp-down on some filling stations over alleged refusal to immediately revert their pump price to N87 per litre as against N97 previously, the major oil marketers Association of Nigeria has commended the federal government for the initiative on pump price reduction and vowed its members will continue to support government particularly in areas where it benefits the citizens of the nation MarketingEdgeMag reports.

“We commend the Federal Government initiative to ameliorate economic hardship on generality of Nigerians by taking the bold step of reducing pump price,” said the Executive Secretary MOMAN, mr. Femi Olawore.

According to a statement released early on Tuesday, after meeting with PPPRA and executives of Oil Marketing companies in Lagos, Olawore said “Major marketers in the country are committed to continue to support government particularly in areas where it benefits the citizens of the nation.

It will be recalled that the federal government had weekend announced a sudden and an impromptu reduction in fuel pump price to N87 as against the N97 previously.

However, stakeholders in the sector were caught unawares, and due to lack of details on directives and the logistics challenge of effecting changes across the country were unable to immediately comply. This prompted the Weights And Measures Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to move against some filling stations by clamping down on them Tuesday.

Olawore who revealed that marketers have started complying with the new directive, however said it will be pretty difficult to guarantee instant and hundred per cent compliance with over 30,000 stations nationwide with an average of 6 pumps per station, giving the marketers a total of 180,000 pumps to be adjusted.

Specifically, the oil marketing chieftain said, “pump technicians have to traverse the length and breadth of the country at short notice to make changes.

He also hinted that some of the service providers (pump technicians) who are accredited are shared by some major marketers, hinting that major marketers as part of its processes will only use accredited technicians to guard against manipulations and sharp practices and at the same time protecting the value the consuming public should benefit from.

Stating that marketers have been co-operating with regulatory agencies while also dispatching their own monitoring team to ensure compliance, Olawore said all stakeholders ought to have been carried along before government made its pronouncement on pump price reduction for better planning and execution.

He said major marketers in Nigeria will continue to work with government to anticipate product price changes in future such that logistics can be planned and deployed for quick implementation.

While acknowledging that marketers will suffer some losses, he said his members are primarily concerned with ensuring completion of price changes nationwide so that Nigerians will benefit and thereafter engage with government.

It is a proven fact that customers will continue to do business with companies that provide exceptional customer services. This is why many new businesses have resorted to focusing attention on customer service support as a viable means to gain instant recognition and to entice prospective buyers.

It is, therefore, important for businesses to know how to relate with their customers in terms of service delivery. Customers will simply pay more money for good service. And on the other hand, they will take their business elsewhere if they are not really satisfied with the way a company treats them.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, cannot afford to lose customers since their credibility and reputation depend on customers’ experience and feedback.

Entrepreneurs, therefore, must live up to expectation in every respect, as the success of one’s business largely depends on the number of loyal customers as well as potential clients one has. This is why I always tell people that exceptional customer service support is vital to the success of a company, and that is why an entrepreneur needs to maintain superior customer relations in whatever economic sector he operates.

 Policies and procedures needed when dealing with customers

It is expedient to note that customer service policies and procedures help entrepreneurs to generate direction to best serve their clients. There are certain things entrepreneurs should do, can do and must do to create customer service policies, procedures and formulate best practices, ideas to serve them effectively.

A customer service policy is a written code of conduct for employees to utilise for serving customers. It could include how to respond to questions or deal with disgruntled customers who want refunds.

A policy can be short or it can be detailed with more than a page. The policy may state what is expected when certain situation occurs or appropriate steps to take. Typically, managers determine the policy and include it within the employees’ handbook.

Meanwhile, a customer service procedure is a way of doing a routine practice.

In customer service, there is a protocol that must be taken in order to remain competitive. Finding a better or faster way of doing something can be considered a customer service procedure.

A business owner is given the responsibility of completing job performance evaluations to see where weak links can be rectified. This leads to increased efficiency and better customer service.

 Advice for small business owners without skills mentioned above

Such an entrepreneur can consult a professional to help him improve his customer service policies and procedures.

Employees and managers should look for new methods to help and serve customers. They should write new customer service policies and procedures every year, especially whenever there is a meaningful change to the objective of the job.

Entrepreneurs should gain input from external and internal customers. The external customers are the people who buy the product, while internal customers are employees of the company.

Feedback and surveys are fundamental to transferring policies and procedures. Once these are reviewed, proper steps can be taken to enhance customer service policies and procedures.

 Tips to help entrepreneurs retain their customers

First, is when you ‘under-promise’ and ‘over-deliver’. By this, I mean you should never promise more than what you can deliver. It is always better to exceed customer expectation than to disappoint them.

Also, try and remember their names. You should ensure that you always use your pleasant tone. As an entrepreneur, you should use hopeful and helpful words. If you are going to do something for your customer, then why not get extra credit by using words like: ‘I would be happy to’ or ‘It will be my pleasure to….’ These hopeful and helpful words make the customer happy and make you look superb.

Always apply courtesy when dealing with them. Constantly thank the customer for calling, especially if it is a complaint call. If they had not called you would never have the opportunity to turn them into a productive interaction. Remember, action afterwards matters. You must follow through to ensure that both your internal and external customers’ commitments are honoured.

 Pay attention to what the customer is saying and don’t attempt to do something else at the same time. Introduce yourself in a positive manner right after answering the phone. Saying your name right away gives the customer confidence. Establish a more personal rapport with the customer.

Try and become your customer’s customer. When possible, take advantage of the products and services offered by your clients by showing your support of their business, as this will help build more trust in the relationship.

Ask your customer, every single time, if there is anything you can do better or differently to make them happier the next time. Sometimes, they give you priceless feedback that changes the way you do business. That question alone fixes issues always. They appreciate being asked.

When mistakes happen and it is frequent, empower your employees to apologise sincerely to the customer and give a little thing; it could be free facility, a gift or a discount to make amends. Never fail to keep your customers apprised of a situation.

Communicate with them, for most people tend to understand if they realise they are not being ignored and they are treated as if they matter. In these tough economic times, not only is price important, but good service is paramount.

 How an entrepreneur can relate with an angry client

This is an area that needs some comforting skills. Entrepreneurs should learn to always answer angry e-mails with kindness and diplomacy. They should go the extra mile, for customers always recognise the extra effort. They will remember and tell others about your ‘above and beyond’ attitude.

Put your money where your month is by guaranteeing 100 per cent customer satisfaction or give them their money back.

Customer service is becoming dynamic; customers have alternatives to choose from, and hence, entrepreneurs need to retain customers to remain in business.

In a depressed economy, customer experience is a high priority for clients, with 60 per cent often or always paying more for a better experience. So entrepreneurs must understand this.

In 2005, the Federal Government directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to create detached Mega Stations in Nigeria to address the petroleum products needs of Nigerians as part of its take on easing the suffering of the people. Then, a floating mega station was inaugurated on October 4, 2006 at Okerenkoko in Warri South-West area of Delta State, ahead of 12 others initially approved by Federal Government.

Sadly, 10 years after, this commendable feat that informed the establishment of the floating Mega stations are yet to materialise in the way it was envisioned. Most Nigerians are still weltering in desperate search for petroleum products, and at the expense of the lives of the people especially during trying times when there is a hike in fuel price.

Nigeria has also been turned into a dumping ground for engine oils and other lube products and local lubricant blending plants are closing shop, while substandard lubricant abounds in the market.

In realisation of the hazardous state of the people and to further support government’s commitment and to lend a hand to NNPC, Oando Marketing, a subsidiary of Oando Plc, as part of its promise to open 50 mega stations in Lagos and other parts of the country in the next five years, has commissioned yet another mega station at the Iwo Road area of Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria.

The station which took approximately four months to construct was commissioned recently in an event anchored by Babafemi Olabiyi, Head Sales at OMP.

Speaking at the event, Olabiyi said that Oando wants to continuously optimize its retail network to demonstrate commitment to customer satisfaction and consolidate its leadership position in the petroleum marketing sector, “Oando Marketing PLC has committed huge investments to improving its retail station facilities with best quality tamper-proof and more efficient dispensing pumps, nicely-designed layout with new canopies and display signages”.

As a key player in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry, Oando Marketing is keen to ensure that petroleum products get to consumers irrespective of their location.  Hence, the plan, which already is in motion, includes building 10 state-of-the-art mega stations every year within the next five years across major cities in Nigeria culminating in 50 mega stations by 2018.

So far, these mega stations have been arousing curiosity in the highly competitive oil and gas sector, have been constructed and opened in the Lekki and Ojodu-Berger areas of Lagos. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is also home to two other mega stations on both Herbert Macaulay and Mabushi in Abuja. The company also converted a retail station to mega station for its teeming customers on the high-brow Obafemi Awolowo Road 1 in, Falomo Ikoyi area of Lagos.

The Chief Operating Officer of the company, Mrs. Olaposi Williams, during the commissioning of the Falomo Mega Station, said this would guarantee consumers easy access to petroleum products as well as raising the bar in the industry to international standard.

Each of the stations, according to her, will have the capacity to dispense at least three trucks of Premium Motor Spirit per day adding that they would be one stop shops for consumers.

 

“The project which has since commenced in Lagos will also be located in good locations in Abuja, Port Harcourt and other major cities in the East, North and West. Lagos, which is the commercial nerve centre of the country, will have the largest share with 50 per cent, Federal Capital Territory 30 per cent, while East and North will get 10 per cent each.” She said.

She added that the new retail outlets would go a long way in assisting the renewed drive of the Federal Government to transform the economy and create employment for the teeming populace.

Olaposi also explained that each of the stations have the capacity to dispense over 30,000 litres of petroleum products daily, using automated pumping facilities and would also be a one-stop shop for cooking gas refilling, lubricants, LPG cylinders and stoves.

“OMP is keen to fit-out its service stations with state-of-the-art equipment and advanced technologies to meet the dynamic needs of today’s customers as well as to upgrade our facilities to the highest international standards. The reopening of Oando Service Station in Warri, Ibadan and Lagos in the last one month will increase our capacity and readiness to cope with the changing customer needs, for fuel and specialty products.”

She called on all to support Oando’s card payment system by ensuring that their first payment option at these retail outlets is the use of debit cards to promote Government’s cashless policy.

A new year comes with a lot of refocused and streamlined efforts as business owners make new resolutions geared at making their enterprises better; more profitable and more efficient. It is useful to note, however, that customers should never be streamlined away, in fact, more businesses should strive to develop what is now called “Customer Centricity.”

According to the University of Pennsylvania, customer centricity is a strategy that aligns a company’s development and service delivery around the current and future needs of a select set of customers in order to maximize their long term financial value to the firm. It requires that the company is willing and able to change its organizational design, performance metrics and incentive structures to focus on long-term value creation for customers.

This is a shift from the product-centric approach where firms focus on performance superiority or operational excellence to maximize shareholder value. While this approach may still work in certain contexts, there are very salient reasons why every forward thinking firm should go customer-centric, at least to a degree.

First off, products moves faster through their life cycle today than ever before – this is a direct result of technology. The end result is that products stay relevant for a very short period of time, meaning the monopoly of being able to produce something that no one else can is quickly wearing away. It now pays to focus on the customer, understanding their unique contexts and being the first to come up with tailored solutions.

Furthermore, today’s customers are smarter, and, well, why wouldn’t they be when the bulk of them use smartphones and other smart devices? Customers may have been passive in the past, taking whatever is thrown at them but today, they are aware of options, whether or not the options are readily available. Social media gives each customer a voice and they usually do not hesitate to make it heard when the occasion demands for such.

Also, distribution technology brings almost everything everywhere in a matter of days. This means that customers are not only aware of options, but they can also readily access these options. Globalization can, therefore, be a plus or a threat depending on what side of the customer-centricity divide your business lies.

What the smartest companies today have done is to fully leverage data driven business models to understand consumer behavior. These companies embrace customer intimacy and are able to draw enormous insights from just interacting with their customers at a deeper level, these insights can be synthesized into end products or tweaks to existing services and place them way ahead of the competition.

As the world gets smarter, smart businesses understand what really brings rewards: creating enormous value for the end customer.

When customers go to a shopping mall, they do so for many reasons. Whatever reasons they have, they are desirous of having good experience.

I have seen shoppers come into the shopping mall to take photographs. Some come into window shop, while others are there to buy their favourite products.

As a business owner, your major target should be the provision of a superlative experience for everyone who comes in contact with your brand. This is where intuition plays a major role in defining strategy.

Every day, a shopping mall receives prospective customers. Some of these prospective customers may not make a buying decision, but they will definitely want to enjoy their time at the mall. The experiences that these prospective and  loyal customers receive in the hands of service personnel determine if they will return to the shopping mall or not.

As an incentive for shoppers, shopping mall managers can set up a 'super shoppers experience programme' that rewards customers whether they buy or do not buy products. Whatever strategy a shopping mall decides to follow, it must be convenient and consistent.

Also, giving prospective shoppers a shopper's guide or catalogue is one way of welcoming them. There is no need littering the streets with product catalogues when a shopping mall manager is not maximizing the opportunity presented by the shoppers.

A shopping mall manager can choose to randomly reward customers who purchase products with either special gifts or a 'thank you' card. A candy can be added.

There are shopping malls in different parts of the globe that have customer experience programmes for senior citizens. A shopping mall manager can decide to offer 5% discount on every item purchased by elderly people. Imagine what this kind of concept does to the shopping mall. When your shopping mall takes care of the elderly by giving them a discount, you are putting more money in their pockets.

Waiters in a shopping mall should be trained to assist physically challenged or elderly people in making them have a memorable shopping experience. Service is simply about sharing happiness. There are so many things that can be done in a shopping mall. The shopping mall manager only needs to apply intuition at all times.

The cashiers in a shopping mall should be trained to manage queues in front of them. Using kind words from time to time will make customers feel celebrated. After payment, cashiers should appreciate customers for making their purchase in the mall rather than elsewhere. Most cashiers always keep a long face, and this is not good for the experience.

Having shopping mall security operatives harass customers for money destroys the shopping experience. I find it difficult going to a shopping mall were a security operative is constantly begging for money. It is embarrassing and prevents a lot of customers from going back there for business. Shopping mall managers should make sure that staff welfare is thoroughly looked into and constantly reviewed.

The shopping mall is an experience centre where customers come to enjoy their hard earned money, see new exciting offers, have fun and interact. As a shopping mall owner, you need to make these experiences worthwhile by innovating on existing services. Ensure that all your shopping mall staff members are constantly kept motivated. When you constantly motivate your staff members, they become empowered. And when they are empowered, customers are empowered and made happy. When customers are made happy, you can be rest assured that they will visit again.

Look forward to each day as you review your shopping malls experience continuum.

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