Ask Afrika’s Orange Index conference highlighted many of the ways brands and government can succeed with customer service. Winners of awards shared their insights and success strategies at a well attended event at Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).
Several central themes of advice ran through all the presentations. These included ensuring that customer service is driven from the top down and not delegating it downwards; making sure that everyone is motivated and buys into the customer service plan; putting customers first, but not neglecting the quality of your products and services at the same time; and ensuring that you continuously adapt your customer service strategy to the changing needs of consumers and changing digital landscape.
Commenting on the key takeaways from the Orange Index, Sarina de Beer, MD of Ask Afrika, says, “We need to look at how the world is changing, consumers are changing. We will have to resonate with the impact of digitisation on time, really question ourselves in terms of our authenticity and congruence, and understand we need to think about consumers and customer segments very very differently.”
The Ask Afrika Orange Index is now in its sixteenth year. Andrea Gevers, CEO and founder of Ask Afrika explained what has been learnt about service delivery over the years. “It is an incredibly dynamic part of a business so it changes, and it’s not easy to be boxed. You need to keep on your toes and not stick to particular ways of thinking about it. Keep connected with the consumer and the companies that do best keep asking ‘what are we missing?’, ‘what could it be?’, ‘how could it be different?’.”
Best in class
The Index rates companies across multiple sectors and Gevers believes this is vital. “What we found with our clients was that they typically only focused on their own industry, and that’s not useful… if you really want to be world class, you really want to be on a global standard you need to compare yourself to best in class across the landscape, and that includes all other industries… The consumer doesn’t just compare you to your competitors, they compare you to everybody else.” she says.
During her presentation, De Beer indicated that the top performers in the index usually stay at the top, citing the following reason. “Service becomes part of their culture. It becomes a service culture, something that gets priority on board level and they have engrained it in the company’s business process. I would almost say they tend to be a little bit more customer obsessed.”
Next up to present was Geoffrey Collier, customer experience director at Volkswagen, the company that topped the Orange Index rankings. Collier’s best advice during his talk was, “Volkswagen believes that South Africa would be a better place if people came together, creating more real, meaningful human connections… Customer centricity is a journey with no destination. The road to success is based on the ability and agility to shift direction to meet changing customer needs.”
Empathy, common sense and empower staff
Cell C CEO Jose dos Santos was up next and he talked frankly about the changes going on at the mobile operator to make it more efficient. These changes are based on a simple philosophy, “All you need for incredible customer care is empathy, common sense and to empower staff. When you have a strong service culture, good customer care naturally becomes a habit… A good reputation for service requires a consistent experience no matter what channel a customer encounters.”
Government was also represented at the conference through the Government Communication Information System (GCIS), with their focus being on service delivery. Director of research and knowledge management, Dr Ntombifuthi Nala, imparted this message during her address: “Public trust and confidence can only be gained through effective and efficient service delivery, coupled with consistent engagement… The public should continue to hold government accountable, to ensure service delivery that is fair and not prone to abuse”.
To find out more about what was said at the Ask Afrika Orange Index conference visit Twitter and search for #orangeindex. Michael Bratt posted live tweets during the proceedings which are well worth reading.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8