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Until recently, some fields of study did not exist. They may have existed as a sub in another field of learning. Customer service was one of such. Until recently, it did not stand out on its own. This is because of the renewed importance of the happiness and satisfaction of the customer – the spender. Their happiness means that you remain in business.

The customer today is very knowledgeable. They are informed. They know what to expect. They are looking out for a difference – differentiation, as it is said in marketing. The entire gamut of the customer experience from entry to finish of transaction is important. These include after-sales service. This is a critical test for most organizations after they have received your cash. It is an easy way to project not only self as a good customer service person, but the company as a whole when a customer’s total experience is savory. It is then easy to get loyalties and easy referrals. Retaining a client’s loyalty is one the best things that can happen to a company.

There is a hospital I like to visit when I have to use one. From the entrance, you would think that you were walking into a 5-star hotel. You are received from the entrance by decently dressed staff with warm smiles, already engaging you with which specialist doctor you would like to see or services you desire. They have maintained this to date. You already start to feel well before seeing the Doctor. The environment is decent and devoid of typical hospital smells. Their services included excellent time management which is good for very busy persons. The good time management aspect apart from other services is one of my main attractions. Their lab investigations are smart. You could conveniently add visiting the hospital into the day’s plan without much fear of serious interruption.

What is Customer Service?

In a simple description, it means going the extra mile to satisfy our customers and making the entire gamut of their experience with our organization mouth-watering and worth returning, again and again in loyalty. Overall, this can only happen with a deliberate and sustained action throughout the system, drilled from top to bottom. In practical terms, customer service is an entire organizational responsibility – it reverberates from the efficient internal client-ship to the external client.

My work experience shows that, if the CEO is not very client conscious, or made a ‘convert’ of great customer service, the system would self-destruct. The customer has great powers! The CEO could unwittingly frustrate the efforts of his marketing team and company’s attitude in this direction with unfriendly policies and body language. The Management team would need full buy-in and cooperation to make it work.

What is the Customers’ Experience, in the Pension Industry?

There are mixed reactions. Some companies and individuals have been upbeat about it because they understand its value. This does not only come the with staff’s own satisfaction and gains to the individual organization; it reshapes people’s perception of the industry. Some others may have it as a philosophy, but fail to drill down. While there were efforts in this direction, the Transfer Window has increased Customer happiness attention from the PFAs. It is essential that this deep, not superficial! It must translate into core services delivery, not shared gifts to entice the customers.
This involves constant reviewing of internal processes and avoiding unnecessary layering.

It requires, deep cohesion of all connecting departments, staff, and sentiments. Experience has shown that personality and objectivity differences between heads of departments may be a distraction here if not handled well.
Departmental handshakes ought to be reviewed frequently and fine-tuned. The customer thus suffers if internal cohesion is not achieved. Good in-house-keeping must be near perfect to achieve the corporate goal of good customer experience in our organizations.

Back offices and front desk staff need to find a rhythm that works. The mentality of staff in these areas are different. The back-office staff tends to be a bit indifferent and impervious to customers complaints. Thus, the front desk staff may not get all the internal cooperation and understanding in satisfying the client’s needs, leading to internal frustrations. Internal client-ship is thus critical to this success. Mental acknowledgment and acceptance of individual roles and how they affect the total outcome is imperative! Problem ownership improves service delivery and makes staff act as a critical stakeholder. Sadly, some staff could be very short-sighted. They distance themselves from everything except the salary and opportunity for cheap glory.

Historical Disadvantage

The hangover coming from the poor history and experiences of many in the old Defined Benefits Scheme, DBS, still leaves doubts of trust and dependability in what the industry and individual companies are doing towards ensuring a sweet experiences for its clients. It will take time for these bad experiences to wipe off. This makes it more imperative to continue to consciously build into the public’s subconsciousness trust and confidence in the industry. by creatively improving on services rendered. The actions should be deliberate and persuasive.

True, some of these issues also arise from ignorance of the public, as to what the industry is doing, how it works, and how it is different from other financial services and products. Some just think that a Pension Fund Administrator is a bank where you go to withdraw or take a loan when under financial distress even when not qualified by definition of the law and intent of purpose of pension and the pension philosophy that is driving the CPS. They threaten that it is their money. But, it is not 100% their own, as it was created by instruments of the law through a contribution, and conditionally! Only redundancy creates exceptions, and possible a future law.

Enhanced information dissemination and awareness creation are thus imperative for all members and stakeholders of the pension industry. There is still a lot of knowledge gap even in top places of government. Knowledge is key to true perceptions, expectations, and satisfaction of the customer.

Pension staff must be true ambassadors of their companies and the industry at large. This can only be true, too, if the message sent down by the management is clear and well outlined. I have had some poor experiences with some banking staff, who lacked enough knowledge of their product and services. They resort to ‘posting’, as some would say of the client until the client is frustrated. The hierarchy, layers and access were often too tight, making the staff helpless as well.

Effective training on clearly defined values, not just routine training is required. Many staff could truly be ‘lazy in the mind’, needing constant training and retraining. Quality of staffing and recruitment processes are also very important to putting together good heads. Most times, many companies have beautiful core values, but never drilled down their system.

Value of Infotech in Customer Satisfaction:

This can no longer be overstated, as to importance and indispensability. All social media platforms use are now imperative to meet the millions of clients of the industry. Many services are expected on-line, now. Thus, continuous updates, improvements, disruptive head-starts will continue to be advantage. This is the new age. Active ICT staffers, including responsive programmers, data base persons are imperative. A good data analysis could open a new wide world of advantage in marketing analysis and customer outreach. It is imperative to create a robust ICT infrastructure in every organization. This is usually expensive. Some company Directors think these are being too expensive. Beyond services, cyber security needs cannot be overemphasized with present ‘marauders on the prowl in the dark web.

Thankfully, the Regulator, PenCom is upbeat on having an industrywide robust and dependable ICT infrastructure to both protect the client and the companies, as well as ensure great services are rendered. Dealing with large numbers must require a great deal of ICT infrastructure and funding

Two Quality Requirements of Good customer service:

Listening patiently with empathy: Impatient people are not good for front desks, no matter how intelligent. People management skills are necessary soft skills for customer service and for life, indeed. Empathy, resisting the temptation of answering a client before truly hearing the client out is frustrating.
Effective two-way communication is very critical. Excellent positive communication skills are required to soften any aggrieved client.
Product knowledge and passion for the job. Some people put you off at sight. Interaction may further worsen it. The emptiness of their products knowledge or industry offerings would be appalling. These are certainly bad ambassadors to the company and the industry. Deep product knowledge and alternatives are very important. People want solutions, not explanations!