A recent survey by Forrester (a leading think tank) found that 39% of customers tell their families and friends about a bad customer service experience. This number is probably increased with the advent of social media – 70% of the population of Somaliland are under 30 most of whom are heavy social media users. We can therefore imagine the potential negative effects of bad customer service.
State of Customer Service in Somaliland
There are no current statistics on the standard of customer of service in Somaliland, but limited personal experiences tell us that it is well below par. I’ll give a couple examples….
After checking in at a ‘leading’ hotel I asked for an iron, as I couldn’t find one in the room; being a Friday morning (the day I landed) I was also told that there was no laundry service. The receptionist failed to find an iron in the whole hotel nor provided an alternative solution – an iron might seem like an unimportant request but for a traveller who has just landed and a bunch of creased clothes in a suitcase, it is pretty important hence why all international hotels provide an iron in the room or a 24hr dry cleaning service. A case of just bad planning or poor service?
Also, the countless times visiting a restaurant/café and sitting down for a waiter to take your order to then simply forget your order rings a bell. The customer should not be forced to chase waiters/staff for his/her order – they are meant to provide a paying customer with ‘service’.
Even in Europe you find poor service amongst businesses established there. Very recently I enquired about flight tickets to Somaliland for the summer of 2018 – I’m an inbound customer ready to spend my cash for the right deal. But not one agent thought it appropriate to take my name, number, requirements and follow up accordingly. It was always me phoning them rather than the other way.
The fundamental reasons behind these experiences and poorly customer service overall come from the culture as well as a lack of training and education. Let’s take these in turn:
A Culture of Bad Service:
The surprising thing about my experiences was what a guy sitting next to me at a café said: “the waiters are always like this, this is Africa”. A culture accepting bad service perhaps. Low expectations overall which really shouldn’t be the case and definitely creates opportunities for those willing to go against the perceived norm.
Lack of Education and Training:
Somaliland as a country in general severely lacks vocational colleges that teach our youth in-demand vocational skills. We cover this in slightly more detail within our Sector Guides. Customer service is a skill that can be learnt/taught as is the case across the rest of the world. Once this skill gets formalised employers will then be able to recruit based on certifications, especially in industries where it is most important (e.g. hospitality industry). The current practice is to generally recruit from family/friends and very rarely are these employees the most qualified. Bad recruitment is therefore a contributing factor.
Bad Service within Monopolies & Duopolies:
Another noticeable dynamic in relation to the start of customer service in Somaliland is that of the big industries being run by monopolies/duopolies. Just taking the telecom industry as an example there are only 2 companies with 1 having approx. 90% market share – so if you have a bad customer service with this provider you can’t really go nowhere. In economics monopolies are always bad for the customer.
Why is Customer Service important?
Should businesses/vendors really care about customer service? Most definitely profess to do so but seldom implement the necessary actions. Whether they acknowledge it or not customer service is very important…even in Somaliland. A couple reasons specified below:
- Micro SMEs need to work towards to earning the trust of a select number of regular/loyal customers. So, we’re referring to the small shop selling drinks & small household goods or a small laundry shop. There are countless similar businesses in close proximity so through good customer service business owners can differentiate themselves.
- Increased competition in the future – as the economy progresses and it will in the future in sha Allah, there will be more competition. Business owners should pre-empt this through nurturing a loyal customer base.
Top 5 Tips for Improving Customer Service:
So far, we’ve discussed the state of customer service in Somaliland as well as why it is important but how does one go about improving customer service levels across their establishment? Below are our Top 5 tips:
1. Get to Know Your Customer and All the Touchpoints
The more you know about your customer and all the touchpoints (where they interact with your business) the better you are able to serve them better. This means understanding customer expectations when they visit you, phone you, contact you via your website/social media.
2. Set Standards and Processes
Good customer service comes from the top. If there are no clear company processes and standards set by management do you really think employees will perform better? What should be the process when a customer walks into a hotel? Meet, greet, take luggage, offer a drink, take reservation etc etc. The key message is that all this can be standardised and communicated to all staff. In the future, you can set measurable KPIs, e.g. the phone must be answered after 5 rings, customer must be given menu within 2mins etc
3. Recruit the Right People
This is an obvious one. But if you start a new business and employ family members that have never had customer facing roles before, do you really think that will benefit your business in the long run? As with any business across the globe, it is the people that make companies what they are. The better your staff are at their job the higher chance of your business succeeding.
4. Invest in Training
As previous stated there is a lack of formal vocational training by 3rd parties/colleges but this doesn’t mean you cannot invest in internal training. A lot can actually be delivered online these days and you can also run workshops with roleplays/practical exercises.
5. Introduce Customer Service Awards
There is nothing like incentivising staff to meet/exceed targets and engage in providing excellent customer service which is then rewarded with awards/financial bonuses. This can come later down the line when you’ve already set the foundation (from all the above steps).
Hopefully this can become an eye opener for current as well as aspiring business owners that customer service is increasingly important. For consumers, well, hopefully you’ll reap the benefits sometime soon.