As the world went into a tailspin last year following the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions, one set of unappreciated people that offered assistance to anxious people were customer care representatives. Unlike frontline workers whose sacrifices were acknowledged, the contributions of customer care reps went largely under the radar.

Though the disruptions also affected them, with many working remotely and adjusting to working around children and other family members at home, they did not fail to provide comfort to distressed customers. This year’s International Customer Service Week themed ‘The Power of Service’ is an excellent opportunity to celebrate these silent enablers and spotlight why customer service has become the new competitive frontier for businesses.

Well aware that customers now have limitless options and that advertising and competitive pricing can only do so much, businesses are increasingly adopting a personalised, customer-centric approach to building brand loyalty. They have since realised that superior customer experience, not just marketing, controls brands, hence prioritising customer satisfaction. Indeed, forward-looking corporates have evolved appropriate feedback mechanisms so that they know precisely how to serve customers better. Apart from periodic surveys seeking to improve services, there are also face-to-face interactions where they hear directly from customers and address their expectations and concerns.

This is innovative and is also our approach at 9mobile. We believe that our customers are kings/queens and that they deserve the very best. We did not just come by our rating as Nigeria’s leading customer-centric telecom company. We deservedly earned it! Our 9mobile Customer Forum, for instance, is an interactive feedback session to deepen relationship with customers. We get constructive feedback on their experiences from using various services and products on our network from the fora held in different cities across the country. It has been a crucial avenue over the years to feel the pulse of our customers and hear from them for our planning. Crucially, the customer forum has yielded positive dividends because many of the products we offer resulted from the feedback we got from the sessions.

Apart from face-to-face interactions, businesses are also investing in customer relationship management (CRM) tools that provide the ideal platform for developing strategies for communicating with customers across different business units. Some chatbots also help in giving customers the best. Again, this is the path we have also toed at 9mobile. We have several innovative solutions, including Enin, a personal digital customer assistant, to make the lives of our subscribers easier. Superior customer experience is a cornerstone of our operations, and we are deeply committed to it. We continuously innovate to satisfy customers because they are the reason we are in business. What’s more, we have evolved from merely rendering services to providing solutions for Nigerians.

Happily, many businesses are also toeing this line in recognition of the importance of giving their customers the best. Happy customers are loyal customers, and will through word of mouth, volunteer unpaid marketing for a deserving company. As author Pete Blackshaw noted, “a satisfied customer tells at least three friends (whereas an angry customer tells 3,000).”

Studies have also shown that Customer service has an impact on existing customers and potential customers. A recent survey found that 68% of consumers would react by telling family and friends about a bad experience by posting it on a social network. A RightNow Technologies Customer Experience Report found that 86% of U.S. adults are willing to pay more for a better customer experience and 73% of U.S. adults said friendly customer service made them fall in love with a brand.

But customer service doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. People drive the process. Therefore, there is the need to celebrate this particular group of people who serve and support customers daily. Without customer service representatives and professionals, businesses are toast. So, to you dear colleagues at 9mobile and around the world, helping big corporates and SMEs retain their customers through dedicated service, a toast to your continued health and prosperity!

Ehimare Omoike is Director, Customer Care, 9mobile.