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-By Monye Anthonia

Every manager or business owner or chief executive officer knows that providing excellent customer support is important to a business, but did you know that the quality of your customer support affects your company’s reputation and overall bottom line? Whether it’s in our personal or professional lives, when we walk into any organization, private or public sector, we expect a certain level of customer service. This can be the point of differentiation between what some of us would consider to be a good or bad organization or company. A company’s reputation is everything, a good reputation could be the determinant whether a business would be average or successful.

Unfortunately, when it comes to support services, bad news travels fast and far; bad news here is a tale of how a customer was not valued and badly treated by the first contact person in the organization. In fact, twice as many people hear about a bad customer service experience than a good one, first impressions matter. I remember the thread that went viral on twitter some weeks back by someone who came into the country via the international airport in Abuja, he shared a pleasant experience of not being exploited by airport and security personnel and how the new look of the airport made homecoming refreshing; after reading that thread, I felt proud to be a Nigerian. This goes to show that it will enhance a company’s reputation if every walk-in customer or visitor feels special and is treated like royalty with utmost respect and regard, it shows that the management has gone the extra mile to ensure that any enquiry, request or purchase is properly addressed.

Front desk employees, receptionists, secretaries, personal assistants, ticketing officers, sales representatives and even security personnel are the most important staff any establishment employs. They are the face of the company and as such their performance is central to forming an impression of the establishment. A customer’s first impression will influence their satisfaction and continuous patronage. Back to the person I spoke about in the previous paragraph, he was travelling with a friend a first timer in Nigeria, imagine the impression the friend would have about Nigeria’s airports as against what he had probably been hearing about; the tales about clearance and baggage claims, stolen properties and dirty and smelly airports. It was good to hear something different about the airport. Now, imagine what stories he would go back to tell his family and friends back home, unknowingly, the Nigerian government has recruited a crusader.

Public opinion plays a key role in informing perspective about an organization’s reputation. For instance, there is a popular opinion about civil servants in government offices and their attitude to work. Punctuality, orderliness, diligence and comportment are lacking in most government offices and this doesn’t tell well of such organizations. You walk into government offices and you have secretaries and personal assistants treating visitors shabbily like they have no business asking about their principal officers. Secretaries’ chewing gum or having their meals in the middle of the day at their desk, assistants not properly dressed walking about aimlessly in and out of offices discussing and making a lot of noise, the list goes on and on. The public sector has been tarnished by a perception of poor standards of service such that people are reluctant to deal with public or civil servants as it is.

You go to an airport or train station and the ticketing officer is overtly rude and disrespectful, you have people talking over your head at their booths not minding the discomfort they are causing the traveller. Sometimes you are at the airport waiting for your flight which gets delayed and you are left to wait for hours, sometimes missing your appointment, with no apologies from the operators. Or you walk into a mall or big supermarket and there is no one around the shelf to help identify where a product is or you go to the bank and can’t find a spot to park your car or have difficulty filling out a form and the security personnel or bank officer is dismissing you as you should know better than to ask for directions or assistance. These little acts of service are what make a customer feel appreciated and go a long way in increasing patronage and loyalty. On a daily basis, customers are increasingly demanding better customer service, it is the responsibility of the business owner to ensure that it is constantly improving and surpassing expectations.

I cannot overemphasize the implication of what disservice this crazy attitude does to any organization or business. Most companies are aware that by increasing the quality of your customer services, you can actually increase your profit. And, by offering poor customer service, you risk negatively impacting your reputation thereby reducing your revenue. But how do we impact this knowledge and awareness in our service delivery, do we strive to make changes or do remain nonchalant to the bad customer service?

*Monye is a Public Relations Practitioner based in Abuja