During our May packing up exercise I made a trip to Westpack to buy extra boxes. These are stored up on a mezzanine level so I had to look for a shop assistant to get them down. The first lady I asked smiled and said “not a problem I will be with you in a moment”. Whilst I waited she spotted another assistant and called to her, she then turned to me to explain that this person would now be helping me. The new lady walked energetically towards me with a smile on her face as she greeted me and asked what I needed. She found everything, arranged a trolley and steered it over to a till for me. It was such a pleasure to deal with both these people and has ensured that Westpack becomes a store of choice for me. I doubt it was accidental that they were both friendly and willing to help. I expect that the store manager is working towards a culture of customer service with a smile. Probably not everyone will have got it as well as these two ladies have, but they alone are making a difference.
One evening we tried out a new Japanese restaurant in Rosebank. My friend had been there during the week and enjoyed the “two for one” sushi special. It turned out that this wasn’t available on a Saturday evening so we were teasing the waitress that this was no good. Whilst we were still deciding on our orders she reappeared with a plate of croquettes, compliments of the manager, to make up for missing the special!
At a GIBS forum on customer centricity the presenter made the point that it is almost the only way left for businesses to differentiate themselves. I agree that it makes an enormous difference and in this age of ‘high tech’, ‘high touch’ becomes even more important. As humans we are craving more connection, to be recognised as an individual, not just a number, and to be shown some caring. But there is an even more important step for companies before focusing on customer centricity, and that is employee centricity.
The differentiator of excellent service is delivered by people, by employees. Whether they interact face to face with the customer or whether they perform background functions, they all contribute to the customer enjoying a good experience. If the employee doesn’t feel appreciated, doesn’t identify with a purpose and doesn’t have a sense of control, they will struggle to deliver that special customer experience. Zappos.com has a culture of happiness and a tagline of “powered by service”. Founder Tony Hsieh says “In nine-years we have gone from zero to $1 billion in gross merchandise sales. And the No. 1 driver of that growth has been repeat customers and word-of-mouth ... I think that happier employees lead to happier customers, and happier customers lead to better business overall.”
Which South African companies do you think are getting this? What can you do to help yours to get it?