Customer Ownership- Achia. Tor. Agbidye

We may acknowledge it or not and no matter the industry in which we operate, the customer at whatever level – Nations, corporates or individuals –remains the reason any company is in business. There are those who may choke on it but the age-old adage remains true today as it has always been: the customer is king. It is the customer that demands for our products and the one who consumes our services and keeps us in business. Very often however this proverbial “mutually beneficial” relationship turns sore when it deviates from the set path of demand and supply and crosses into the realm of issues and issues resolutions. 

To tackle the challenge of customer issues resolution, often erroneously considered a problem, several approaches have been developed over the years as industry standard. These tools rather than comfort the customer have inadvertently become insulation from the consequence of the dissatisfaction customers feel with products and service delivery further alienating organizations from the customer. Make no mistake, Credit Direct is in the forefront of developing and deploying new customer service solutions and we pride ourselves as being “innovation driven” but while we invest in these tools, we also realize that they will never truly replace our relationships with customers. This is particularly apparent in a society like ours still making a very slow transition from communal relationship structures. To quote Steve Ferrante, “The true test of a business’s customer service fitness is not when things are going right – but rather what is done when things go wrong”. I therefore reiterate that these IT driven solutions in themselves are great tools for enhancing customer relationship management and beg that you do not misconstrue my labelling them as “insulation” to mean this article is against leveraging Information Technology to enhance issues resolution; it only means that in spite of them there are companies who go a step further to serve the customer. 

One of the distinct cultural standouts at Credit Direct is that our customers are of immense value and we place a high premium on winning and retaining them. This may sound like the usual business jargon but I assure you it is not lip service. The experience our customers have of our brand and products is of such paramount importance to the Organization that it was imperative to provide a radically different framework within which to manage complaints and resolve issues; It is a doctrine preached first by the CEO and cascaded throughout the organization. This unique concept of “Customer Ownership is fashioned out of the same fundamental principle Martin Zwilling put forward when he said, “customers remember experiences, not your brand logo”. This idea of Customer Ownership has become a fundamental requisite at Credit Direct and applies to all Directors, employees and officers of the Company. Customer Ownership for us means all members of the Company are expected to take full ownership of any customer who may require their assistance, input or support. This responsibility includes accessing any of the Company’s products and services as well as resolving any complaints that may arise from accessing those products and services. 

Pervasive global models would like to assign the ownership of the customer to an individual, a unit or division based on their level of interaction or responsibility or even how much the success of a customer relationship impacts on their performance measurement and pay. There may also be those who argue that the organization “owns” the customer, and this remains true even in this instance however it also remains true that when everybody thinks somebody will do a task nobody ends up doing it. The Credit Direct Customer Ownership concept may seem to single out an individual rather than emphasize team work but this couldn’t be further from the truth; What this concept seek to achieve is to nominate a member of the team to hold everyone else including the Board and Management accountable to ensure a coordinated approach by the entire team towards resolving the customers concern. This is hinged on our belief that Shep Hyken was right when he said, “to the customer, you are the Company”. Our model therefore is an accountability matrix that ensures that the customer receives the best attention no matter which person or avenue he or she uses to reach Credit Direct; It makes certain that every member of the Credit Direct family remains optimally sensitized to the customer and the customer’s needs such that we consistently maintain a mindset of producing solutions for the customer because “your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Damon Richards). What this ultimately does for the Company is that while customers remain satisfied and even emotionally loyal, their relationship and bond is not with any one individual but with an entire organization that remains caring, empathic and reliable from whichever angle you approach it. 

To own our customer, though, we must first clearly understand who our customer is. For us at Credit Direct we see our customer as anyone, corporate or individual who may have any cause to interact with our brand. We therefore define our customer as any person or entity internal or external to our organization who may at some point seek to do business with Credit Direct, may be doing business with Credit Direct or may even be in default of any of our loan products and whoever Credit Direct employees, Directors and officers may have cause to interact with on behalf of the Company in the regular course of doing business. You will find that our definition does not consider the usual bottom line focused Pareto’s Principle of 80-20 but deliberately adopts an all-encompassing description where every customer is king! As Michael LeBeouf said, “a satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all”. 

Deriving from this definition of our customer, we also view complaints as valuable feedback made either verbally or in writing about our products, the standard of service, action or lack of action on our part as a corporate collective or individual staff which may have affected a customer or group of customers. Every complaint for us is therefore an extremely serious event and calls for immediate and decisive response. The framework of customer ownership consequently calls for us to listen to complaints, document them appropriately, treat them seriously and keep an open mind to learn from them in order to continuously improve our service. This underscores our commitment to providing a progressively higher standard of customer service and it is the Company’s resolve to provide speedy and effective resolution in the event of any complaint about our products or services. At Credit Direct we also agree with 

Jeff Bezos that “…it is our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better”. 

Any member of the Credit Direct team who becomes the “first contact” of a potential or existing customer is therefore expected to take complete ownership of the complaint raised by the customer and see it through to resolution. This implies that the “First Contact” is expected to follow up on all the touch points involved in resolving the complaint and providing regular feedback to the customer through to the point of the complaint being satisfactorily closed. A complaint will however only be considered closed when the service required has been completely delivered and accepted or when the customer has acknowledged receipt of the information requested. The “First Contact” is also responsible for escalating the complaint raised by the customer to the line Manager if the issue is not resolved to satisfaction or if the first contact perceives undue delay; this escalation may go through to the MD/CEO. In the converse If any member of the Credit Direct team fails in their obligation towards the customer by not taking responsibility for the complaint raised, such a person becomes the “First Point of Failure” which is totally unacceptable. 

It is in this unique spirit of Customer Ownership that at Credit Direct we also have a designated Customer Advocacy Unit (CAU) as our core telephony team rather than the traditional Contact Centre or Customer Service Unit. The CAU which is part of our Customer Experience team is charged with advocating on behalf of the customer and bringing their voice to the fore in every aspect of our business. You will find when you call the Credit Direct Customer Advocacy Unit on 0700creditdirect (0700273348347328) therefore that rather than your concern being logged as an issue with a ticket and impersonally passed on to someone else to treat, the Customer Advocacy Officer maintains responsibility for resolving that concern and providing feedback to all queries till the customer is fully served or satisfied with the information proffered. This eliminates the information mish mash associated with 3rd party reporting, the unnecessary lag time for passing “tickets” from one unit to another and the uncertainty of not knowing who to contact for feedback on the part of the customer. On the other hand, there is more likelihood of transparency and speedy closure on the part of the Credit Direct team member concerned. If a customer would prefer to reach the team online at loans@creditdirect.ng we’ll be there to chat or if by email the handle you will find is resolutionsteam@creditdirect.ng and there is a definite resolution time line of 24 hours because we believe along with to J.C. Penny that “courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement”. You may notice too that the nomenclature for the contact email address has also been deliberately coined to reflect our culture of solution mindedness and remind everyone in the team that our role as an organization is to provide definite and satisfactory solutions for the customer because as Michael LeBeouf said, “a satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all”.