Recently, I was tagged a series of posts by esteemed friends, regarding a comment I often make when it comes to the lack of customer service, quality employment, bad interviews and inadequate practical skill set and education that plagues Cameroon’s current and future generation. The comment in question is simple (or so I would have it): “We cannot expect from system what we did not put into it.” We – and I used to be a part of this “we” I write of – have grown to be so comfortable in our respective lives to the point we’ve stopped being considerate. Considerate of the reality of our expectations and our asks, particularly when it comes to Customer Service, Practical Education, Job Interviews… in Cameroon (might point of reference). Before I dive any deeper let me paint a better picture of the issue. Four years I began the journey of what has come to be known as IYA . My business partners and I’s drives to make a difference was and is what kept/keeps us on track and in check. To set up the kind of establishment that is puts people, culture, opportunity first, it required humility and learning. And boy did I learn and still do. Whatever we created had to be solving a crucial problem, and first for us was outstanding – not just great – customer service, practical hands-on education and skill sets that will equip our team to make amazing and game-changing decisions for them and the collective. I started eating out in all sorts of food-joints you can think of in #Yaoundé, #Douala, #Kumba, #Limbe, #Tiko, #Idenau, #Mutengene, #Buea etc, and strived to understand why was there a lack of great customer service and it quickly became apparent that the “mami-puts” and “grand-ma joints were the winners. How come? They had the advantage of empathy! They – in their own way understood that a satisfied customer translated into good business. Experience stood as their educator. And they shared this with us their children – my Grand Mother and Mother in my case. So I dug deeper to understand why the “younger”, more formal restaurants, cultural centres, shops, bakeries, etc just kept failing at it. “It” here = customer service, job interviews, applying one’s self in life etc. Let me share my findings – specifically around the lack of customer care (note I didn’t use service) as a starting point – with you; Before though, let me define and establish what customer service is to me, to us all at IYA, and why we discard it and reach for Customer Care in its stead. Customer service involves just that: serving customers to complete a transaction. Yes it may be friendly, helpful etc, It remains a service whose primary purpose is to make a sale or finish a specific process for the customer. It doesn’t venture beyond that initial contact, and it does not typically catch a customer by surprise. In contrast, with Customer Care we take pride in serving and caring for our customers, treating them like family. IYA is mother, and boy will she ensure you feel special and care to the unique individuals who make up the core of IYA’s business. It involves a proactive approach to customers that may catch them off guard in a positive way and delight them with our personality, verve, humour, company. With that in mind, let’s look at the some problem and my possible solutions. I’ll just cherry-pick here for I appreciate your time and wouldn’t want to take a lot more than I already am. And thank you for reading this far. I genuinely appreciate and am cognisant of the value you share with me by reading this. CREDIT: IYA VIA FACEBOOK
1. People are not trained. We expect customer service when we haven’t even taken the time to train, educate, and lead (yes lead by example from the frontline – not from the office or by fear) those we expect it from. It’s like eating junk food and expecting to be ripped without any exercise, or wanting that amazing looking and driven chick/guy when you won’t even invest in your own self to look equally better with a killer drive. Fact is she/he isn’t looking for you as her/his eyes are set for higher. Reap what you sow. When organisations, companies etc do not spend the time to fully train their people the consequence is poor service. When “we” who complain the loudest forget that we’ve lived, experienced and know great customer services, we become part of the problem. Yes! I said it. What is our expectation based on? Oh I forgot it’s not our business. The waiter/student/interviewer/jobseeker should know… they should be… STOP IT! They’re doing what they do void of training or knowing what you do. Imagine how great it would be if you shared your knowledge, train or contribute to to the outcome you expect. Solution: Dedicate resources (time and money) for training and reinforcement. I took 3 months out of my life to share and train my staff. I imparted the experience I gained from working in the hospitality industry whilst at university, I took customer service courses (some are free) and I employed Customer Service experts to help me in the process. Employees should be fully informed about company goals, the products and services. Emphasis and training should be focused upon the importance of listening and responding to the customer’s needs. People can only do the job if they are given the right tools and objectives. It costs money and time to train people. But guess what, it costs more if we not to train them, give-back, impart knowledge and experience. Sow the little you can and water the seed. You’ll be amazed what will come out of it. If you doubt me, head to IYA and tell me what you experience. If it’s average, tell me where we fell short and rest assured we will raise that bar taller.
2. People don’t care. Instilling the correct personality is crucial for the success of anything. Apathetic or self centred personality types have no place in a business that requires dealing with people. Business owners, please stop putting the wrong people in the right position if you care about your customers! Not even your brother, your mother, wife or girlfriend if they do not have empathy. You’ll close shop, loose that opportunity quicker than you had even gotten ready to start. Solution: Focus the selection and evaluation process to identify personalities that do not fit the required profile. Get the wrong people out immediately, it also sends a clear message to everyone. Let them know why you’re taking them out. Yes, feedback! Succinctly make it clear why and if you can help them get better, do. There are free resources out there on how to become a better person. If you don’t know where to get them, just ask me, I love to share my library.
3. Employees don’t believe in the company, product or service. If the image, marketing and promotion of your business is quite different from the reality, your staff will not be able to sustain a positive attitude in the face of customers, or constantly masking the problems they know exist. Stop being a boss – that applies to all the hashtag BossThings, BossChicks, BossMan etc – or continue and Boss your business, your dream into discontinuum. Solution: Be honest. Try being a leader and lead by example from the front. Work closely with staff and customers. This is how you get to understand what your staff go through dealing with tough customers. Believe in your staff, help them identify and manage real problems and fix them. Don’t let marketing advertise over problems, solve them. It takes courage and you have it.
4. Personal problems reflected in work. You expect your staff to care? Care for them. When an employee’s personal life is in crisis or out of control, they may exercise control, aggression and negativism toward customers in an attempt to put some part of their life in order. Solution: Clear communications with employees: If their personal life is affecting work performance, talk about it. Give them time off, give them an honest and humble counsel, or just listening may prevent more serious problems. Care for them and they will do for you and customers too. If you’re a customer try showing a genuine care to the person serving you and watch the service quality rise. Gents please I haven’t asked you to court or chirps. There is a difference, try respecting. I’m just being honest here.
5. Don’t see the benefits – don’t understand their role in the business. If people do not have a stake in whatever they do, not passionate and equipped with the right tools and drive – be it through inspiration, advice, care, kindness… how can you expect great and full participation? Solution: Understand this, Employees are people, and they project an image of the company, the business, you. People make a business, the experience, the job etc. They should be reminded of their importance and value to the customer and to the company. Incentives, recognition, training and constant reinforcement are important. Tell me when was the last time you as a customer (or business owner, educator etc) complimented your waiter for that great smile, or thanked them for putting up with your fowl mood due to a difficult day? Or acknowledged their efforts for looking after you and making the experience worth it? Or did you just assume it was fine since it’s their job? I hope you get the point. Stop asking for what we did not collectively or individually put into the system. If you’re struggling on how best to be part of the solution, please I’m here. I’m doing a series of workshops and know-share sessions this December at IYA. And it may not only be in Customer Service, I’ve got my sheroes and heroes Dtor Sea, Ayuk Takor, Pam Happi, Mel Dibson, Eliza Anyangwe, Jacques Jonathan Nyemb Mbeng Ngassa who will be sharing their amazing wealth of knowledge with the community. Please I have enough space for more. Join in! Whoever wishes to participate, it’s free and open session – capacity allowing I’ll be putting up notice closer to the time. If there is anything to take away here, let it be these:
1. Stop being a victim! I stopped waiting for good things to happen to me. Instead I went out and happened to things, to people, and together we made “good.” If it was “good” already we make it “great”
2. Reach out and help people. Share your knowledge. There is more satisfaction to it than anything I’ve ever known, and it isn’t a selfish satisfaction for you actually celebrate with the success of the person who’s learned something new. If we all – in our own ways – did this, you can rest assured things will begin to change for the better. You’ll be caught off guard by some amazing service, jobseeker, CV etc.
3. There is an unhealthy dosage of social conditioning in us that tells us we can expect what we did not plough, reap what we did not sow, because we’re better, brighter, better educated, fairer, have travelled the world, have better means, lead a better life, come from a better home… STOP IT. Nurture the people you expect them to give you the great customer service. Hang around people who would put you in check and remind you to be considerate, appreciative and humble, to leave a positive mark on your world.
4. You wish to Criticise? Oh please go ahead, in fact start by criticising me please. YES ME! And when you do, do so constructively and show me a better way! I can only get better!
5. You may think the future of Cameroon is bleak from where you stand/sit. I’m here to tell you – and i have IYA to show for it – There is a light somewhere. It may not be much light, but it beats the darkness. If we all step up to the plate and each one humbly teach one. Not wear a chip on your shoulder, that in itself is a change I can attest will have a ripple effect. And you will see how that light is growing.
Thanks for reading this far. Next post I will start showcasing the results of what providing training, believing and investing in this and the next generation can do. Be the change you seek.
Source: ARTS QUEST Facebook
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Thank you IYA for setting the pace and taking the lead to be the change we expect to see in our society.