WHILE my wife and I were discussing some of the causes of gender-based violence (GBV), I was also reflecting on how enjoyable and peaceful our marriage has been for some years now.
Enjoying such a reflection and evaluation while discussing how violent some people have been to their spouses while other couples have been enjoying their marriages for some years now, my phone rang.
I looked at the name and number of the caller. It was no one; but one of my regular esteemed readers by the name of Mulenga Nsosombi.
From our past experiences and knowledge in certain areas, some people call both of us ‘professors’ and, therefore, we both call each other ‘professor’ professor’.
So, I answered the phone: ‘Yes, professor. Compliments of the season!’
Mr Nsosombi replied: ‘Thank you, professor; and compliments of the season to you too.’
Then I asked Mr Nsosombi how life was.
Mr Nsosombi responded and said: ‘I have just finished reading your article in today’s Times of Zambia (Saturday) on ‘Let’s Talk Careers’. The way you wrote this article is like you were present when I was confronting some officers at …(a named organisation).’
He said although the article ‘2014: Year of action; greater achievements’ published on 28/12/2013 was advising individuals on how to ensure that their 2014 resolutions were achieved, the same article was also highly applicable to most organisations in our country.
He said he told the named organisation: ‘If you weren’t a parastatal, you would have been liquidated by now because you have lost almost all your clients due to your poor services that have reached the lowest levels ever.’
He said he was forced to tell off officials in the named organisation because each time he went there for more than a month now, he was told that someone to sign his papers was sick or had gone for a funeral.
He said in the organisation, one officer told him to wait while that officer was checking something for him in other offices. It is reported that Mr Nsosombi waited for more than 40 minutes before the stated officer came back with negative results on his reasons for going to that organisation.
Mr Nsosombi wondered why most of the officials to sign his papers for him to be paid were always not in their respective offices each time he went there.
Mr Nsosombi told this writer that he also wondered how the same organisation was servicing its clients in Chipata, Mongu, Choma, Mansa, Solwezi, Kasama or in any far-flung district if its headquarters in Lusaka could be as ineffective and inefficient as this.
And anyone who has been in most organisations can agree with Mr Nsosombi that customer services leaves much to be desired. What is interesting to note is that most organisations nowadays, including in parastatals and the civil service have different positions relating to
Like public relations (PR)-related functions, it appears customer service is another field which needs a lot of orientation in most organisations for them to understand what it really is, and how it affects relationships with stakeholders and business in general.
Mr Nsosombi said he followed all the articles published on Saturday and Sunday under Let’s Talk Careers and Public Relations Forum, respectively, and found such articles by this writer very educative and practical.
But he was concerned that most organisations like the one in question weren’t reflecting on their past performances with a view to improving on customer service to achieve their objectives and goal. Mr Nsosombi noted that some organisations had even reduced their human resource levels because they had lost customers to competitors.
Therefore, for the sake of this article, the word ‘customer’ will include ‘clients’, ‘members’ and ‘stakeholders’. And organisation will include any legal entity with many people as workers and customers.
The word ‘profits’ will include ‘support’ and ‘goodwill’ from stakeholders.
Mr Nsosombi observed that some organisations had lost more clients than ever before resulting in their reception halls always being empty as most clients had left such organisations due to poor services.
It was observed that because of poor customer services, such organisation had been static or even reduced their workers, a situation which was worsening high unemployment levels in the country.
Mr Nsosombi appealed to relevant boards and line ministries to supervise some of these organisations for them to jack up their customer service for more customer satisfaction and job creation in each organisation.
Contrary to some experiences, this writer had a claim with National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA).
While this writer had learnt of some of the challenges NAPSA has in satisfying its clients on time, this writer had a similar situation with NAPSA.
But what was interesting is the zeal and enthusiasm by most officers at NAPSA near COMESA.
I could see efforts in most officers to hit the target and its deadline. When the system failed them, I could also see most officers at this NAPSA branch humble, and apologising for not achieving the desired results. Lastly, I got what I wanted from NAPSA.
Therefore, know when your customer service fails a customer and apologise where necessary.
2014 should be a year of improved customer service in our respective organisations.
We shouldn’t wait for a customer to come to us before we start working on their issues. Let’s be more pro-active in servicing our customers in 2014 than ever before.
Customers shouldn’t wait for our services for too long before we serve them. It is important to respect customers’ time. Ensure that the quality of our product (s) is/are better than before and better than those of our competitors.
Our pricing should be as competitive as possible to attract more customers to our business. Our distribution outlets should be as close to customers as possible.
Promoting our products and services through effective publicity, advertising, personal selling and PR should be as professional as possible.
Make 2014 a year you will be a leader in that business sector.
Lead the business as more customers trek to you while your competitors yawn with despair while hopelessly following behind you.
2014 is the time for you to beat all your competitors. It is a time for you to increase both your sales volume and sales values at low production costs for more profits. But do this with effective corporate social responsibility on workers and other stakeholders.
Let 2014 be a year for respect for customers’ time. Let’s formulate a policy and strategy to ensure that customers don’t spend more than a certain time waiting for being attended to.
The physical evidence (buildings and their surroundings) both at headquarters and in all our branches should be well-painted and attractive. Ensure that no potholes exist in our business corridors and surrounding areas.
Like it is in some Lusaka-based firms, ensure that a customers’ book where they write their comments about how they are served is at their disposal.
This will give you and top management officials, including the chief executive officer, a free feedback tool for corrections and possible improvements.
In 2014, ensure that all your workers have your organisation at their hearts. Retain only highly committed and hard working workers and managers.
Those who are in your organisation for a salary and other personal benefits only should be asked to leave your organisation. 2014 should be a serious year.
Retain only those workers who can propel your organisation to greater heights for high quality products and/or services to customers’ satisfaction. In turn, effective customer service creates more jobs for many citizens.
Improved customer service is not only restricted to organisations selling goods but spreads to training institutions, regulatory bodies, civil society organisations, trade unions, political parties and churches, clubs, etc.
Professional bodies should also improve on their customer service for better service delivery in their professionals to their respective clients and local communities.
What Mr Nsosombi observed is true with some organizations, including training institutions, lodges and hotels and restaurants. Some of these businesses had many customers before but now they are almost empty without customers.
Be like Zambeef, Zambia Sugar Plc and Zambian Breweries Plc and others which record good profits every year.
Companies with effective customer service satisfy local markets and surplus is exported to other countries.
Your organisation can do much better if you can improve on customer services in 2014.
This writer and Sunday Times of Zambia management wish you and your organisation a prosperous 2014.
(The author is a PR Trainer and Consultant. For comments and ideas, contact: Cell: 0967/0977 450151; E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org)