The Sunday Mail
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, Africa’s population is set to rise by over 50 percent in twelve years, with the continent’s top 18 cities having a combined spending power of $1, 3 trillion.
This highlights the growing need for sustainable competitive advantage.
Zimbabwe’s customer-facing companies and service providers are generally lagging behind in terms of implementing effective customer service strategies.
The 2018 National Customer Satisfaction Index (NCSI) released last month showed that Zimbabwe’s customer satisfaction index ranking for 2018 has declined by 11, 8 percentage points to 63, 7 percent from 75, 5 percent.
This shows that companies are not putting much effort into ensuring customer satisfaction.
Effective customer service is the level to which service meets the customer’s expectations and needs or the extent to which companies surpass customer needs by offering the best customer experience.
To this extent, experts say good customer service is a catalyst for economic and social growth and should always be high on the national agenda.
According to Chartered Institute of Customer Management (CICM) chief executive Dr Ricky Harris, customer satisfaction is now recognised as the single most important factor affecting a company’s profitability.
“It’s critical for foreign investors who need to understand the relationship between a company’s current condition and its future capacity to produce wealth. In capitalistic free markets, sellers that do well by their customers are rewarded by more business from buyers and more capital from investors,” she said.
Global customer service expert Mr Shep Hyken warned of a gap between the service provided by companies and the service expected by customers themselves.
“The first version referred to the gap between you and your competitors. You want the gap to be wide. It means you are putting yourself further ahead of your competition and picking up market share.
“The second version of the gap focused on narrowing the distance between you and your customers. The closer you are to your customers and the more you are meeting their needs, the narrower the gap is between you and your customer. This also puts your competition further away from your customers,” he said.
“Now comes the third version of the gap, which is the difference between how good a company thinks their service is versus what their customers actually believe they receive.
“A number of years ago, I read an interesting report from Bain and Company that found 80 percent of companies saying they were delivering superior customer service, yet only 8 percent of customers agreed. That was a surprising, almost staggering, statistic. Is there that big of a disconnect? Is the gap really this big?”
Perhaps a factor that has contributed to low customer satisfaction in Zimbabwe is weak customer activism. Zimbabwe has for a long time suffered from the challenge of anaemic consumer bodies.
Typically, lobbyists seek to protect the general public or the constituents whom they represent against such concerns as profiteering, disease, unemployment, and market fluctuations, among others.
Goals include making goods and services more readily available to consumers with better quality and in an environmentally friendly manner.
Consumer activist tactics can include boycotts, petitioning the Government, media activism, and organising interest groups.
But this has not been the case in Zimbabwe, with the particular case of the rather ‘toothless’ Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) being raised as the quintessential example.
A lot of Zimbabwean customers tend to be short-changed by some dubious businesses and yet the offending parties continue unabated.
Despite CCZ’s concerns over unjustified price increases for basic commodities, this trend continues.
Maybe the statutes that gave birth to CCZ did not grant the body requisite powers.
In other countries, effective lobby groups quickly calculate the cost(s) of such behaviour and/or anticipated or actual loss of business and make this well known.
That way, companies cannot afford to take their customers for granted.
When our value proposition improves as a country, the same will happen to our competitiveness.