The managing partner of The Workplace Centre, Mrs. Bola Adeniyi-Taiwo, has stated that one of the major challenges of the manufacturers of Made-in-Nigeria goods and services is their inability to create irresistible brands. In this interview with ABIOLA ODUTOLA, the lawyer-turned- Human Resource expert outlines how the brands could break the jinx. Excerpts:
Nigerian entrepreneurs are respected and revered across the world, especially for their tenacity and ‘can do spirit’. Why does this not translate to building irresistible brands?
I agree that Nigerians’ tenacity is incomparable to those of other nationals but regrettably, most of the brands could not build irresistible brands because they failed to offer what is required to attain that level. That is, offering quality and excellent customer service delivery to their clients or consumers.
Does that mean most local brands do not offer quality service delivery compared to other developing nations?
They do not. The poor level of patronage of some local brands are connected to the ‘care free’ attitude of either the managers or the chief executives of the brands. When compared to some businesses that invest immensely in great customer service strategies, several Nigerian businesses still have a long way to go.
What is the relationship between sustainability of businesses and customer relationship management?
At the moment, the country is largely perceived as a nation where businesses/ factories are commissioned daily, without adequate plans to relate the sustainability of the business to customer relationship management. The latter has a big role to play in the sustainability of any business. There is no business that does not have its publics and that means is compulsory for all to ensure they build excellent customer relationship.
If local brands build the expected customer relationship, do you think they can compete favourably with their counterparts in both developed and developing nations?
We are basically a consuming nation; we applaud service delivery of foreign brands and multinationals because we have failed in ours. We praise others for doing what we can do to protect and secure the future of our brands. I believe several local brands can compete internationally if only they correct measures are put in place and that is to emotionally connect and add value to every interaction with consumers. The much needed robust customers’ service relationship to transform business is lacking in Nigeria thus causing the citizens to develop patronage in foreign products to the detriment of equally competitive local brands.
Specifically, how can local brands add value to interactions with consumers?
Successful companies take customer service farther by applying it directly to their employees. When a service or sales team regards and treats one another with the same consideration and respect that they would offer the customer, amazing team spirit is created and the overall work dynamic of the establishment is improved. If all Nigerian business managers and CEOs heed the call for a consistent, amazing customer service, more consumers of goods and services within and outside the country will increase their demand for local products, which will, in turn improve the unemployment situation in the country.
A lot of companies believe customer service is not cost effective, especially with the on-going economic recession. What is your take on this?
The best way to do that is not to view customer service as a cost but rather as an investment in building future and long lasting relationships that would create customer evangelists. An expert said that one unhappy customer would tell 12 people about his experience. But with the advent of social media, one customer may have 500 Twitter followers to spread the message to.
But can Small and Medium Enterprises operators afford it?
The importance of quality customer service training for all staff cannot be overemphasised for businesses regardless of their size, service or market focus. There are certain skills, tools and priorities, which are not expensive, that are essential to the growth and development of amazing customer service.
There is no gainsaying the fact that we must have the technical knowledge, financial and material resources as well as the required infrastructure and up-to-date technology to attend proactively to our customer’s needs.
With the economic recession, a lot of companies have sacked their employees, especially staff in the customer care unit. How will this affect their businesses?
The benefits that excellent customer care skills provide to businesses are endless. This unit shouldn’t be affected by recession because not only can it make the difference between an immediate sale and lack thereof, it can also make or break a potential longterm client relationship. And with everything else being equal, almost everyone will choose the company that recognises and meets their needs consistently over the one that does not.
What is the key word in relating with customers?
The most immediate and important factor is establishing an orientation of respect. That is one element that is immediately felt by the consumer. This alone can lead a hesitant customer to make an instant purchase or cause them to walk right out of the door. After the respectful attitude is established, then it is vital to anticipate and very importantly focus on the customers’ needs. This is when active listening skills are essential.