Author: Prof. Mornay Roberts- Lombard
The modern African consumer is much more willing to switch brands due to greater service provider choice. This is not good news for service brands as the company will lose spending power, and as a result reduced profit levels. So what must service providers then consider when engaging with the modern customer in a service environment? Increasingly, aspects such as positive levels of service quality, value for money and trust to secure customer delight become important to enhance customer loyalty and must be considered in business strategy. The following guidelines are provided to service providers to enable them to enhance customer experience through delightful engagement.
Guideline 1: The positive experiences of customers should be grounded on the principles of service excellence, trust, product knowledge, empathy and understanding. Through a focus on these principles, the customer experience will be enhanced and the loyalty intention of the customer strengthened. When a customer engages with a service provider, they want to experience a service that depicts empathy, understanding, friendliness and joy, stimulating a positive engagement with the customer. Through such a stimulation, the provider will be able to increase both the level of customer trust in the brand as well as the customer’s value perception of the service provided.
Service providers need to understand that a customer wants to have a positive experience when engaging with a provider brand. Such an experience should be grounded on the delivery of a positive service that is characterized by professional service delivery, positive engagement, problem solving and excellent after sales support. The modern customer in Africa does not simply want a service experience that satisfies their needs, but a service that exceeds their expectations and secure a delightful experience. To secure this, service providers must ensure that the service quality experiences of customers are high and delivered by competent employees, the services offered are unique and memorable, post purchase service support must be of a high standard and the service provider must offer extensive service recovery to its customer base.
Guideline 2: Customer service delivery experiences can be improved when the service provider better understands the service needs and value expectations of its different customer segments. The modern customer does have increased service needs and expectations, but still wants service engagement to be grounded on professionalism. Professional service delivery should be guided by knowledgeable employees delivering friendly, supportive and pleasing service engagement to customers. For customers today, basic principles of service experience are still important. This implies that customers have a desire to be acknowledged when engaging with a service provider, they want to feel that when they communicate with the provider brand or its employees, their communication is acknowledged and that any complaint that they have, are given full attention and resolved. Therefore, the training of employees is critically important in areas of communication skills, conflict resolution skills, product knowledge and emotional intelligence to increase the service experience of the customer both during and after the service engagement. This would secure a delightful experience for the customer that is grounded on positive communication and a caring attitude towards the customer.
Guideline 3: A service provider can enhance customer trust in the service brand when employees have respect for the customer in terms of the time spent when engaging with the provider, when the provider is perceived as reliable in it service promises to the customer, when the service quality levels delivered to the customer is of a consistently high standard and when communication to the customer is perceived as honest and sincere. Therefore, a service provider’s delivery on all commitments towards their customer base should be timeous, and not include any reasons for non-delivery or non-compliance. Finally, when a service provider brand makes a promise to deliver to a customer on a specified date and time, such promises should be fulfilled.
In conclusion, service providers in emerging economies in Africa should understand that customers will have a stronger loyalty towards their brand when they have a greater understanding for the specific needs and wants of their customer base, when service quality levels are delivered on a consistently high level, regardless of the time of day, and when customer challenges and complaints are addressed and fixed in a fast and efficient manner by friendly employees who secure a positive engagement experience. Through such an approach, a service provider will become more successful in ensuring a delightful experience for the customer, thereby developing strong relationships that ensure the loyalty of the customer in the long term.