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The Effectiveness-Lab

As CEOs and their teams ‘Zig’ customers ‘Zag’ – holistic customer satisfaction still elusive – 1 of 2

When it comes to customer satisfaction, it is clear that as CEOs and their marketers ‘zig’, clients ‘zag‘. Check the meaning of zig-zag and you will get many descriptions of the word – for example, meandering, sneaky, winding, crooked, twisty, curvy, wavy, what else?

Businesses Zig as Clients Zag
Businesses Zig as Clients Zag

This week the Effectiveness lab turns its attention to an interesting subject – the world of ‘customer satisfaction‘. When you place together results of customer service ratings as perceived by marketers vs. individual customer ratings, you get to see the zig-zag pattern. It is not uncommon for the marketers to believe that they are doing a good job and present a position of ‘hope’ to their boards, while on the other hand, customers continue to grumble about patchy and poor service by companies across their value chains.

Note the ‘across value chains’ above – marketers don’t appreciate the fact that sustainable customer satisfaction accrues from ‘holistic service review and delivery’ and not ‘isolated pockets of service excellence’ at specific points of the value chain.  Customer service cannot be a patch-quilt game, yet this is the cancer eating most customer service efforts at many modern businesses

This week’s blog, the first of a two series sequel, focuses on the ‘outside-in’ customer perspective – if you want, the needs of the ‘external’ customer. Convincing both prospective and won-over customers, about the value addition of a particular brand, is what businesses and their marketing staff deal with all the time; it makes or breaks the business.

Paying the right attention to all ‘client-interfacing‘ points in a particular business value chain is amongst the most generalised and misunderstood subjects in business management. A situation made worse by the increasing power of ‘analytics’ at businesses, but that sadly targets the wrong parts of the value chain. How can we tell about the success of an advertising campaign? How do we tell which ‘client-interfacing‘ points of a business value chain customers are happy with or not? The quick answer, especially from the MBA types will be ‘analytics’ – really? Is it that simple?

The truth is that while every business fights for its corner when it comes to customer satisfaction-supremacy, they tend to forget one thing.  That general customer satisfaction metrics from marketing research activity may present a false picture of the actual state of customer satisfaction – marketers zig and clients zag!

The zig-zag narrative of elite banks in East Africa:

The most poignant example of the business/customer zig-zag scenario is the banking industry in East Africa.

All the elite banks in East Africa not only put on a great show but also believe that all is well in their customer ranks. However, engage with the bank clients and you are left wondering why the banks think all is well.

Using some of us at the Effectiveness lab as guinea pigs, we witness every day, ‘isolated pockets of service excellence at banks’. In our opinion, banks may be the most visible manifestation of the lack of a ‘holistic service review and delivery’ business approach.

Banks in East Africa, at least in Uganda (home 👍), fight hard to capture a share of the very small viable middle-class market.  They promise heaven on earth to would be bank customers. In the quest to position their various product offerings, banks differentiate and segment the market accordingly – and all this is common business sense.

Those in the higher middle-class bracket shall have access to the so-called ‘private banking suite’ – the private suite, as far as we know, is meant to serve the creme de la creme among the East Africa middle class

Private banking suites promise those that still believe in what banks say, heaven and earth – and at a premium.  However, only when banks remember, do they offer you the promised coffee or Soda while you visit the suite; let alone instant service plus a litany of other service commitments – they intermittently offer these things, at least from our experience.

One quickly realises that apart from getting service in a special area/room or even at a bank counter, you are still accessing the same services with everyone else, but sadly at a premium.

It is like having a special executive dining area at work, without an accompanying unique kitchen/meal; why not simply have the executives line up ahead of the others, but in the same dining area? After all, the food is still the same, is it not?

We have at times been dragged out of the premium banking room to line up with others in the ‘commoners’ line – the only difference being that you are helped by a bank staff to get ahead of others that are already in line, and likely got there before you did – an act that is ethically repugnant in itself.

A McKinsey series on customer satisfaction – discusses customer touch points vs. customer journeys

We learn from McKinsey that customer touch points make the ‘total’ customer journey. Very few amongst the elite banks in East Africa show evidence that they look at customer service as a customer journey. Instead, the banks seem to service customer touch points. For example, the bank markets the private banking product so well, via respectful and courteous staff, but forget to fulfill their service promise as soon as customers sign on.

The same bank, on a good day, will offer you tea in the private banking lounge, but forget that they did not return your call just the day before – a day when you most needed the bank.  They offer you private lounge comfort but forget that their loan application process is cumbersome and confusing.

Banks are fighting to attract middle-class clients and promising preferential treatment that their organisational service culture cannot yet provide on a consistent basis.

Look a little closer at the bank’s structures and you will discover that banks do not have the right architecture to house all their service promises.  Do they have a Chief Customer Officer? If they do, where do they report? Likely not into the CEO. We suspect that banks have orthodox Customer Relations Managers, Marketing teams, Private bankers and all sorts of job names! It is business as usual, servicing traditional customer touch points and not journeys

Offering a cozy private suite is always welcome – but that is simply one touch point on a customer journey for a private banking client.

Indeed, banks will continue to zig, as their customers’ zag!

Let us look at the ‘inside-out’ perspective in series 2 – i.e. the internal client – is that a zig-zag pattern as well?


One response to “As CEOs and their teams ‘Zig’ customers ‘Zag’ – holistic customer satisfaction still elusive – 1 of 2”

  1. […] like the ‘outside-in’ paradigm believers relate with external customers, ‘inside-out’ believers have relationships […]


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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