Customer care services is one skill that today’s accountant cannot do without as business operations continues to integrate. Gone are the days when only customers’ care advisors are seen as the only professionals that can make impact on the life of the customers. The dancing tone has changed and therefore calls for an immediate change in the dancing steps.
Customers care is all about showing empathy and being assertive in difficult and complex situations. Your customers already have a problem (reasonable or unreasonable) before seeking help from you. It is a crime for an accountant to think he or she is not concerned as far as customers care is concerned. The role of accountants in the modern day business world has succeeded in making the distinction between accountants and other operator in business ever blurred. It is the responsibility of all staff to manage the investments of the owners of the business-including winning customers care and loyalty.
CHARACTERISTICS OF CUSTOMERS | WHAT DOES YOUR CUSTOMER WANT FROM YOU?
As far as customer care service is concerned, all customers irrespective of the industry you are in have similar characteristics that will either define your success in living ahead of your competitors.
TO MEET THEIR NEEDS
Every customer demands that their basic required standard of services. Most of the wants are also backed by law thereby making it automatic for the customers to always get them. Provision of a safe environment is a good example of a need that all customers need. They will never be satisfied if their basic needs are not met.
TO MEET THEIR WANTS
The needs of customers are those special services that we render to our customers so as to make them loyal to us. These are the extras that make customers experience memorable and enjoyable. The increasing competition in today’s highly competitive business world has made it almost hard to notice the difference between a customer needs and wants. For a business to win and retain customers, it has to strive to meet and surpass the customers’ needs else, they will look elsewhere.
TO MEET THEIR EXPECTATIONS
Customers expectations are what they think they will get from the business due to past experience or what they have been told by the business’ other customers. This might at times be unreasonable and unrealistic, but professionalism and care needs to be exercised here in order not to leave a negative impression on the customer- remember, you have only one chance to create an initial impression!
A lot of businesses that failed in the past were all guilty of not living up to the above three standards in handling their customers hence, their ultimate end. Now, let us throw history behind us and face the present fact. It is a shame that a lot of businesses that claim to have good business idea and employing the best hands are still found wanting in this regard. Part of the cause of this is the so-called bureaucracies that still exist in many modern day businesses all in the name of segregation of duties.
It is a fantastic idea to have clean segregation of duties in an organization. In fact, frauds that will eventually lead to the collapse of an otherwise profitable business will be the order of the day if duties are not clearly defined and segregated. Where the problem however lies is in the fact that workers are ill-oriented as to where to draw the line. Sensitive duties like attending to the need of customers need not be overlooked by any member of staff that wants the organization that he or she represents to move forward. I was mad at the response I got the other day from an accountant of a well known business. I walked into the business premise of this company, saw this gentle looking man with the company tag, I stopped him so he can direct me to the customers service desk as it was not conspicuously position. His response was “I am only an accountant”.
Now, if you were in my shoes, what impression would you have about this company? Irrespective of the quality of the services given by the customer care division, an average customer that has not come in contact with the wonderfully groomed team of customers care staff will instantly come to a conclusion that he or she is in the wrong place.
The personal experience I used above may be considered by many to be a little bit harsh but, do not forget that every little counts. Customers are one of the most sensitive groups of people to please. An often suggested solution to this problem is for the management of the company to take staff motivation issue seriously. Staff motivation is a dynamic process that is company specific and therefore requires an ongoing tweaking.
ROLE OF ACCOUNTANTS TO CUSTOMERS
As information measurement and processing professionals, accountants occupy a sensitive position in the business communication process that is very vital to the success of any business (key business success factors). Accountants are the main communicator (accountants as communicators) in the world of business and finance that understands the process better than others and are in better position to make positive contributions. To meet up to what is expected of them, accountants must play the following roles in customers care services.
It is the role of an accountant as a business advisor to bring to the notice of erring management the importance of blending the spirit of customer care services into the work and business ethics of the organization. The management can be excused for not knowing the ingredients of good customer services but certainly not the accountant.
The accountant in her capacity as a designer of accounting information system ensure that linkages and nodes that will make the system robust enough to handle the ever changing needs of the customers (inclusive of internal customers) are present.
One thing is to design a good system of internal control and another thing is to make it work. The accountant has a lot to contribute in this regard as they are part of the ‘frontline’ staff that also makes input at the strategic level of decision making. Every staff member are frontline staff one way or the other now (there are situations when managers join the front-desk staff to clear the queue) Linking back to the advisory role of an accountant, he or she could advise the management to make use of simulation techniques to see how procedures are actually followed and observed.
It is very simple; all that your customer wants from you is an ‘empathetic touch’. This must not necessarily provide the magic solution to whatever problem they have or an answer to whatever question they have but will go a long way in solving any kind of customer related problem- at the minimum, create an empathetic environment where the customer will feel valued and honoured. It is part of the corporate strategic plan towards positive and enduring brand management, why not be an integral part of the process!
The competition amongst businesses in winning and retaining customers has never been this intense and dynamic. To remain relevant in your finance role as an accountant, you must appreciate the fact that customer care duty is part of your contribution to the achievement of the overall goal of the business you are representing.