Living, breathing and enabling customer service
Communicating with clients is critical in addressing their needs, and ensuring the clientele take centre stage.
MTN Business is adopting a new approach to client care designed to foster close communication with clients, as a means of resolving potential pain points.
The company is refocusing its approach to customer service, focusing strongly on improving how it listens to its clients, how it services their needs, and ensuring it places its customers at the heart of everything it does.
According to Thandeka Chabane, acting GM for Client Services at MTN Business, the company formulated a new operating model with regard to its client services, one which entails a change in staff behaviour, a new mindset and a clear focus on genuinely listening to what the customer is saying.
"The new approach is based on two years of accumulated data, where we spent time talking to our customers, asking the hard questions and analysing their responses. Many of our clients were brutally honest about their issues, and we worked with them, unpacking their difficulties with our service, to work towards solving these," she says.
"One client stated they had a challenge renewing services with us, pointing out that it was a lot like going to the dentist and having a tooth removed, without having any anaesthetic. However, both parties were very frank about expectations, and we focused on diving deeply into the causes of the problems so we could solve them."
From a staff perspective, she says, this new strategy is one where its people will be expected to live, breathe and enable this approach, with the goal of delivering a flawless experience concerning what the clients expect.
"We are saying to clients, what we're doing now is similar in principle to the concept of a private banker. We have client care specialists whose job is to maintain communications with the clients, through regularly touching base with them, ensuring they're happy and if there's anything we can do. Customers also have recourse to initiate a conversation with their individual client care person at any time."
Chabane says MTN has now created a range of 'care classes': Priority, Express, Standard and Contact care, each of which will offer a certain service promise, relating to how often engagement with the specific client is demanded, be it weekly or even quarterly. The design principles of care classes were based on key drivers of client satisfaction, client spend and tiered services per care class.
However, she is quick to add that whatever care class a customer falls into, they're still guaranteed to be touched by MTN's customer care, regardless of the amount of actual time spent with the company. Proactive client management, she calls it.
"Our people who serve as this point of contact are pure customer service and support individuals; they are not account managers or sales people. This means that when they communicate with the client, they do so from a pure customer relationship perspective, rather than one where they are looking to sell them something. Their job is to give the customer the best insight and advice around what is good for their business, even if that clashes with what is best for our own business," she continues.
This approach, she says, means once a pain point is identified, it can quickly be resolved, something that is very different to the more traditional 'spray and pray' approach to client service. By providing a single point of contact, it creates a greater value proposition for the clients, because now if they have any questions or complaints, they can go directly to their client relationship agent, who will then be responsible for sorting the issue out, even if it's something as obscure as the client's staff not getting good reception in a particular part of the office.
"The key to good client service is constant communication. If you are always communicating with the customer, especially in a situation affecting their service, so long as they are given the facts, they can make contingency plans for the period while it is being solved."
"Of course, this essentially means our customer care people are on call 24/7 to solve client problems. After all, if a client loses connectivity at 3am in the middle of a big project, you can't tell them to wait until 8am when the office is open to begin sorting things out, at least not if you want to deliver the kind of service that we aim to provide."
Chabane is excited about MTN's new approach, as she's passionate about customer service. As far as she's concerned, future success will not be driven by digital transformation or by opening up new markets. Instead, it will be driven by communicating regularly with existing customers. "True customer service is to understand the client's own experience, rather than merely working on what you think it should be," she says.
"The next few months are going to be the litmus test. If it is done well, we won't need to publicise it, as our clients will spread the word about what we are doing themselves.
"We need to remember that clients only see the single MTN brand; they have no idea or even care about the various business units or back-end operations required to deliver the service they demand. Our new approach now means we have people in place who are prepared to jump through whatever hoops are required to solve the clients' problems," she concludes.