Call Centers-the missing link to excellent service delivery in Zimbabwe

By Rinos Mautsa
The last decade has witnessed a substantial shift in emphasis on the part of many firms from focus on the productsthey produce to a concentration on their customers and the value that their customers derive from ownership and useof these products/services. This “customer-centric” perspective is correlated with the blurring of the line between productsand services, globalization and growing usage of social networking platforms. A closer look into the cutthroat competition in the Zimbabwean consumer facing industry one would clearly note that customer service excellence is the next competitive battleground for winning corporates. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s report on Africa published in 2010, consumer facing industry is fast emerging as the future of global business, the consumer-facing industries will account for at least half of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product. The recent global marketing trends have witnessed a shift in core product competitive strategy towards providing customer centric technology solutions, of which, call centers is a very significant ingredient for customer experience management. In fact, future prospects of most firms would be built on significant growth in the proportion of revenue derived from customer experience management. Excellent service delivery in Zimbabwe in both private and public sectors is far beyond reach with consumers paying a big price in quest to get a mere service leaving one to wonder if the adage that “customer is the king” still apply.
While organizations have spent millions on advertisement campaigns, corporate social responsibility (CSR)and customer relationship management (CRM) programmes to provide better service andbuild stronger connections with customers. Achievement of CRM objectives for most organizations in the consumer facing industryremains an elusive goal without efficient and effective contact center operations management.Organizations invest millions in technology and expansion but ironically, after all the investment, only efficiencies improve, not performance or customer experience. The way to a customer’s heart lies not in software, systems and processes only but in service convenience and quality service delivery.Consumers are now well informed and educated thus need for those in the service industry to shift approach in a more radical way in order to survive. A company or organization making radical changes in its business model can capitalize on call centre as part of its CRM strategy. A switch from providing customer support only during business hours to providing 24/7 services can be a big leap for many companies. Globally most local authorities, insurance companies, telecom companies, medical associations, financial institutions, fast food operators all have in-house contactcenters which is the opposite in Zimbabwe. Contact center, also known as customer interaction center is a central point of any organization from which all customer contacts are managed. In this technology era, Zimbabwean customers are now contacting companies by calling, emailing, chatting online, visiting websites, faxing, and even instant messaging therefore it becomes handy for all organizations to set up in-house call centers.
Most banks in Zimbabwe are now offering mobile banking and e-banking service ,ironically they don’t have supporting call centres services to allow 24/7 support to their customers leaving one to wonder if customer experience management and excellent service delivery is on top priority. The country’s largest power utility, Zimra and local authorities can also take a leaf from our neighboring countries like South Africa, Zambia and Botswana who have set up supporting call centers to ensure efficient service delivery for all the public institutions. Our government can also take a leading role through the ministry of ICT and Tourism by setting up a national call centre which can service all national enquiries, tourism marketing, emergency services, act as information hub for investors and citizens among others key roles. Whilst the cost of setting up a call centre can seem to be enormous however the benefits far outstrips the cost. The main alternative to setting up of an inhouse call centre will be outsourcing to a third party provider.Currently in Zimbabwe there are now over three companies which are offering call centre outsourcing solutions.
A recent public sector survey conducted by Forbes in different countries revealed that the average customer contact costs is higher for face to face, followed by postal enquiries, then phone enquiries and the lowest being for online services.It is therefore vital to note that online services and call centers are not only instrumental in building loyalty and customer experience but are a cheap way to conduct business. Call Centers can keep organizations in touch with there clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that’s an advantage that translates into customer loyalty. Most global leading corporates and customer oriented companies have noted this and now use call centers as a building block for all CRM and Marketing programs.This shift towards a service-centric strategy represents an important aspect of firms’ efforts towards enhancingoverall revenue and profit, customer acquisition and retention, and competitive differentiation.
Delivering exceptional customer service should be the central aim of any organization in Zimbabwe. Everyone involved in the business, from top management to agents, needs to be aware of its importance and what they need to do to make this happen. CRM objectives depend on a customer centric culture and enterprise-wide strategy, with particular emphasis on building buy-in and shared objectives among employees. While enthusiasm and participation at the top levels of an organization are necessary, they will be far from sufficient without call centers especially for companies in the service industry. This is now the high time for all players in the service industry or those directly affected by service delivery to consider call centre setup or efficiency for those with call centers when crafting CRM strategies.