Customer care (Published on Republica)

One of my friends recently wrote on his popular blog that he planned to switch from Nepal Telecom (NT) to another service provider. He cited issues with NT’s quality, customer service and price as reasons. NT and other companies that are not proactively servicing customers should pay heed to the conversations taking place online and adopt measures to improve their customers’ experiences.

We have many service anomalies in Nepal. We pay for many services yet we seldom get to experience its full value. I pay for NT’s Asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) monthly unlimited plan and there are at least a few times a month when there is no internet for hours. I pay for the garbage collection every month. Previously, they used to come twice a week and now it is only once a week that they show their face. I have been a customer of a bank for many years yet I get notified to fill the same Know Your Customer (KYC) Form every six to nine months.

For a company to just ignore paying customers or not listen to their needs and concerns is not a sustainable long term strategy. I believe one of the main reasons most customers are putting up with many bad experiences from different service providers is that there are no alternatives yet or they do not know of other alternatives. But with the rise in the disposable income of Nepali consumers and the access to information, consumer awareness is on the rise. Companies not operating to their full capacity or not providing pro-customer service will see a fall in their customer base or will eventually lose out in the fierce market competition. Customers are not going to put up with these service disappointments for long. Thus, the new breed of entrepreneurs can capitalize on the current service shortcomings and make service a core strategy of their business model.

Providing great customer service actually makes shrewd business sense. Businesses which adapt to the consumers’ needs and wants will prosper in the long run. It is as simple as that. With the increasing amount of choices available for consumers to spend their money, businesses have to compete for the customers’ time and money. Customer service is thus crucial to earn their trust and have them buy from your company.

Nowadays, all businesses will be impacted by what people say and see online, especially on social media. A popular social media story related to customer service is of Dave Carroll, a musician who was travelling from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Omaha, Nebraska on United Airlines (UA) in the US. His US $3,500 beloved guitar was damaged in UA custody and he pleaded in vain for compensation with the airline company took close to nine months before deciding to take matters into its own hands. He wrote a song “United Breaks Guitars”, made a video and uploaded it on YouTube in 2009. It became viral in no time, garnering more than 14 million views to date. Capitalizing on his success, Dave has also recently published a book United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media. This was not the type of publicity UA wanted to get in the highly competitive airline industry. The Airlines tried to repair its reputation but the damage was already done.

A local example of good customer service was experienced by my father. The teller of the bank had not fully informed him of a certain percentage of commission when he opened a foreign currency account. Later the teller had deducted the commission without my father being aware. The bank automatically lost trust and credibility in my father’s eyes. In due time, my father had a chance to share his experience with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the bank. After listening to my father’s concerns, the CEO called upon the bank’s tellers and his assistant manager to his office. The CEO communicated my father’s concerns to his team, thus regaining the customer’s trust and loyalty. The particular bank has now earned great goodwill and received high marks for customer service from my father.

Quality customer service is slowly coming of age in Kathmandu. Generally most businesses treat customer service as offering the lowest price to the customer than a competitor. But instead of competing on price alone, businesses should rather focus on providing the highest value. Providing the highest value means focusing on customer service, going above and beyond service and emphasizing on the quality of your product and service. Businesses should understand the customers’ needs and sell product or service that benefits the customers. Some Nepali consumers haggle and try to get the cheapest price where they can.

In a recent study titled Customers 2020 by customer intelligence firm Walker Information, it was revealed that customers will demand a more personalized experience; forcing companies to tailor their products and services to the unique needs of each customer. The Customers 2020 study also stated that with an explosion of communication methods, customers will interact on their own terms. Companies will need to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience across all channels. This means businesses in Nepal will also have to evolve and address the needs of the savvy consumers.

The concept of consistent and reliable customer service is fairly new in Nepal. Only a handful of companies are really known for quality customer service. Providing excellent service should not be an afterthought for businesses; it should be an integral part of doing business. We need customers asking for quality service and products and we need business organizations to be proactive. Thus, reputable companies like NT should provide quality service to their customers to stay competitive in the telecom industry. Otherwise, they will lose customers to another telecommunications provider.

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