So the other day I walked nervously into a shop in what is known as “downtown” Nairobi looking for a better bargain or so I was made to believe by my friend who seemed to be known very well. The shop in question deals in clothing materials. At the entrance an askari (guard) asked to conduct a security check on me which I obliged. She thanked me and told me to enjoy my shopping experience. I felt my nervousness slowly start to die off. I was led to up a flight of stairs and then to a stall where she told me madam ukimaliza nitaitwa nikuzindikishe (madam when you are through I will be called to escort you back). I thanked her and was ushered by an elderly lady into the small material shop.

The elderly lady offered me a seat whilst asking whether I would take coffee, water, tea or soda. I declined but she went ahead to put a 300ml soda bottle on a stool near me. She then took the adjacent seat and inquired if I needed anything else. I told her I was fine and was looking for material. She indicated that materials were many and for her to narrow down to what I required, I would need to provide more information: The colour, texture, the occasion I was attending, would I be using it for that one occasion or for other occasions as well… the questions were precise and the answers from me were top of mind. Within minutes she brought out 5 materials and took me through the pro’s and con’s of each. After settling on what I liked she went ahead to recommend a good fundi (tailor) who apparently does stitching work for all her clients and if I wanted she could come and take the measurements from where I was and deliver once the garments were done. I felt so relieved that I would not have to deal with looking for a fundi. I thanked her as she ensured my contact was within sight to escort me.

Sitting in traffic I looked back at that experience. We always hear of companies talking about customer service as some complex, distant, expensive activity to make our customers happy and ensure they remain loyal. But here was an elderly lady who had not only managed to ensure I bought the material from her but had also referred someone else to enable me have the finished product at a place and time of my convenience. I, who is very good at bargaining did not even remember to ask for a discount. I am a corporate trainer and I believe in customer service training as a key area for any business. For a long time, it has been my observation that most organizations have a customer service department whose main role is to ensure that customers are happy, loyal and are providing feedback whether negative or positive to enable the organization make the experience worth the while and for the customer to always come back when the particular need of the product or service arises again.

It is important to note that for a customer to return, the experience has to be memorable from start to finish. Key for organizations is to ensure that all individuals in the organization are ambassadors of customer service. The initial point of contact for customers could be the askari manning the point of entry, and whether this individual is outsourced from a security firm or is a staff of the organization is a nonissue.

Most organizations leave certain people out of customer service trainings yet they are in many cases the first point of contact for the customer. Ambassadors of customer experience are all people in the organization from the casual labourers to the managing director. They should all speak the same language; the customer language where every day in every way whether big or small they are ensuring that their customers have a pleasant experience. Whether by taking time to listen carefully to what the customer needs or by acknowledging them with a smile. Customers remember how you made them feel. They will always want to come back where they felt acknowledged, appreciated and assisted.

Article by Wanjira Kibanya – ICX Member and Managing Director, Tezlo Consulting Limited