Customer care? Not quite there yet!



Saad Al Dosari

Published — Monday 28 January 2013

Last update 28 January 2013 3:37 pm

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There are things that we only hear about, we have never seen or experience them first hand. Folkloric stories are filled with ghouls, but have you ever seen one? Unicorns are as well, but have you ever been able to ride one? Most Saudi companies are advertising customer care and services, but have you ever received service to the level of your satisfaction? I do not want to sound unappreciative, but out of every 10 exchanges I have with any company’s costumer service, I get satisfaction only once or twice.

The concept of customer care is a new and strange concept to the Saudi market. Mostly, it is treated very lightly, superficially even. And companies usually forget, or ignore, that their whole existence is built upon servicing their customers. Having a customer care department is not enough; there is more to it than taking phone calls and replying with ‘company X, Y & Z, how may I help you?’ Customer care, in its essence, is a culture.
That’s the very reason why most Saudi companies are scoring very low when it comes to satisfied customers. They design their whole service strategies on statistics rather than customer satisfaction.
They care about how many customers called their phone lines, not how many were really serviced. How many complaints did they receive, and not how many were satisfied with the service. The metrics used to measure the performance of customer services revolve around efficiency, not outcome and certainly not customer satisfaction.
Most call centers around the world, as well as in Saudi, have a metric that is called ‘the handling time.’ It means the time a service agent should spend on the phone answering a customer’s call. The duration is usually kept at a ridiculously short interval, so the agent could service as much calls as possible, or the agent performance is negatively impacted.
So no matter how complicated the complaint is, the call agent will do his / her best to finish the call as fast as possible. No wonder then, why most of our dealings with call centers leave us frustrated and disappointed.
Take Zappos for example, the online shoe and apparel retailer. They understood that customer service is not only about numbers; it is about communicating with your customers and interacting with them. Zappos scores the highest in customer satisfaction although they do not have state-of-the- art automated systems to take your calls and leave you wandering and punching numbers on the phone desperate to reach the correct person in charge of your inquiry. At Zappos real human beings receive your calls, and a few weeks ago they scored a record: one of their call center agents stayed on the phone helping a customer for more than 10 hours!
Back to the local market, the concept is distorted in mostly all sectors. I moved to a new house about a month ago. During that experience, I had to deal with different companies in different sectors: real estate companies, home movers, furniture and appliance retailers, and telecom companies. The whole experience was burdened with a heavy load of disappointments. The only thing most of these companies understand is profit, and that’s it.
You may wonder why we, the customers, have to put up with this? The answer is simple: the choices are limited. Few companies in each and every sector control the market, so the opportunity for competition is at a minimum.
In addition, governmental or NGOs supervision is absent, or very weak at best. And even if there are rules, it is a long and bumpy road to apply them. There are no ways to enforce contracts or get compensation.
The secret of a successful business is simple, it is not even a secret: just promise what you can actually deliver, and reach out to you customers, understand them, and give them the customer care and services they deserve.

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