It’s about 7:30pm on a Wednesday evening in one of the major supermarkets in Nairobi. The store is busy with customers rushing through the aisles to get their shopping done to head home before it gets too late. In 5 minutes one will have navigated the aisles and completed their shopping only to find that the tills have lines that are as long as from here to Timbuktu (ok I have never been, there but its sounds like a faraway place even though it is in Africa).

I look ahead to try and figure out what the holdup could be or whether there is a till breakdown or malfunction but alas out of the 6 tills only 3 are open. I cannot believe this! For crying out loud its 7:30pm which is most likely the busiest time at any supermarket as everyone rushes to grab milk and bread or whatever options for tomorrows breakfast. I get quite irritated and ask for the store manager who nonchalantly walks up to me. I ask him why the other tills are not open to serve customers and his response – “We have already closed those tills as we shall be closing the store in 30 minutes.”

Unfortunately the above is a common scenario in many of our supermarkets as well as banks. Banks are especially notorious for letting their tellers go on their lunch break during lunch hour that is a peak banking hour. This may seem like common sense but it actually seems like it isn’t. Most bank customers work regular business hours meaning they would most likely use their lunch hour to make a bank run.

Would it not make sense to have all the teller windows open to serve customers more efficiently? And secondly, would it not make sense to stop with the non-productive rules of teller specification for cash/Mpesa receipts, or cheque only transaction etc and have all tellers be multifunctional and trained to perform all the necessary functions?
Nonetheless I want to believe it cannot get worse as competition is keeping everyone on their toes.

However as customers, we need to demand better. After all it’s our hard earned money right? Companies need to move from a “customer focused” approached to a “customer centric” approach which means they have to keep the customer at the center of their focus and ensure that they always deliver a positive experience regardless of the circumstances.

A customer centric approach means anticipating the future needs of customers hence understanding their behavioral patterns. Like the busy lunch or evening periods and having all the cash tills or teller windows open.
Customer centricity calls for companies to understand their customer base and their “Customer Lifetime Value” for their business.

Most importantly companies need to invest in educating their employees to become competent, customer-centric and engaged employees who are both capable and inspired to consistently provide a superior customer experience. (Steve Curtin)

Authored by Elly Mathenge
General Manager – Global Customer Experience
Techno Brain Limited