By Paul Kam

Customer service is a really broad term that is sometimes defined as public relations but most times as a very essential part of marketing.However it is defined, customer service,  can open more doors, if  delivered efficiently or have them slammed in your face for good. The skill of delivering good customer service begins with developing good communication and listening skills.

Consider these scenarios. You are in a cafe, you ordered lunch and 45 minutes later it hasn’t arrived. You asked the waiter about your order and he sends his supervisor to you. Supervisor gave every excuse he can pull from his sleeve as to why the delay and implying that you didn’t understand that they had to cook from fresh ingredients!What are you most likely to do? You would cancel order, finish your drink and walk out. Next. Same scenario but the supervisor comes to you and apologise even though you have waited 20 minutes and not 45 and offer to bring you a bread basket and to refresh your drink.You will surely tell your friends about it the moment you get out and recommend them to patronise that cafe. Am I right?

Now this is why communications is an important skill. Even if the supervisor in the former scenario had not meant to be rude, with good communication skills, he could have explained the delay in a manner circumventing a walk out.To be a good communicator you first need to be a good listener.A young fitness trainer told me many of his clients did not only appreciate the fact that he could explain the gym packages to them clearly but they also like someone to listen to them talk about themselves. Listening and taking an interest in what his clients say are important elements in his sales strategy.

Customer service is really about building a bond between a company and its clients with intention of developing customer loyalty and brand image. Developing it is not just about the P’s and Q’s. It is about staffs who have ownership of their job and their tasks and understands the benefit of sharing the products or the services of their organisation to the clients. Having a genuine interest in the well being of the client is important. Instead of memorising phrases and limiting to greetings, which is the minimum expected, we have to understand what the client wants and be able to deliver the solution. A smile is good, but a smile with a solution is excellent.

In a challenging economic environment, excellent customer service is critical. Would you spend your money and face grumpy faces when we are already watching every cent? Although this is a concern more with profit making organisations many GLCs and government departments have awaken to the need of building the institution’s image via good client service. Inevitably government departments have been the centre of blistering criticism when it comes to poor customer service. Each time I hear someone complain about going to a government department  it’s because they would anticipate a long wait and non-apologetic civil servants.

Fortunately, there is always an exception and I can gladly say the exception is in institutions like the Employees Provident Fund (KWSP). Three years ago The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) ranked among the top three performers in the country for the Best In­house Inbound Contact Centre Under 100 Seats Award and also the top honour for Best Government Contact Centre Award at the 14th Malaysia Customer Relationship Management and Contact Centre Industry Award. EPF Chief Executive Officer Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan was quoted as saying that the awards reflected on the levels of our customer service and how they engaged with our employees. It also indicated that their employees understood the part they played in the organisation.