In Kenya, how are we treated in terms of customer service quality? Every few months it seems that hashtags appear on social media platforms butchering various service providers, from electricity to telecommunications. Also, many Kenyans hold personal stories of poor customer service experiences at the hands of banks, consultants, or hospitals.
Researchers Taeshik Gong and Youjae Yi found that customer satisfaction in multiple countries around the world is driven by service quality. Satisfaction, in turn, leads to customer loyalty and thereafter customer happiness.
Happy consumers tell other prospective customers about products or services and therefore generate free word-of-mouth marketing. Ruben Cáceres and Nicholas Paparoidamis discovered that service quality and industrial customer satisfaction could be broken down into three causes of accessibility, technical assistance, and delivery service.
While in Kenya we often fume over perceived bad customer service, this author would like to provide a different opinion. Kenyan companies actually excel in customer service as compared to American firms.
Americans suffer from dismal customer service at the hands of their mammoth-sized corporations. Try calling a bank in Kenya about a disputed charge. A consumer can speak to someone typically in less than a minute in most banks.
In the United States though, a customer must hold for many minutes and enter multiple numeric responses after various recorded messages. Also, in comparison, if one’s electricity goes out in Kenya, the consumer can file an automated, phone, or social media claim and receive a response and estimated repair times.
In the United States, on the other hand, in the rare case that electricity does go out like with this writer’s father in a recent severe storm, customers can call repeatedly for days and not reach anyone at the power company and receive no news of restoration times.
Additionally, try making a social media inquiry to an American firm. An inquiry falls upon deaf corporate ears. Kenyan companies in contrast often retain fully staffed social media and phone line personnel to respond to every inquiry in timely manners. Many Kenyan firms have mastered the art of customer service responsiveness.
America subsides as a nation where the balance of regulation falls more in favour of corporate interests rather than in Europe where, in comparison, governments are bolder to step in and force regulation and required customer service in some industries from airlines to electronics to phone carriers.
American corporations also engage in “bait and switch”. Many firms advertise a particular price, but then hide previously undisclosed fees and charge them against the consumers’ credit cards without their knowledge until after a transaction is complete. Hotels, tour agencies, and airlines are some of the most notorious in America for such practices.
However, in Kenya, the power of our mobile money platforms empowers consumers to enter exact pre-arranged monetary amounts and send the cash to the merchant. Instead in America and much of the world a consumer gives the merchant their credit or debit cards and then must trust the merchant to honestly enter the correct amount in the transaction and charge it to their card.
So, in America as an example, banks have whole divisions to help their customers fight and dispute merchants who place fraudulent or inflated amounts. But in Kenya, the consumer controls the amount on Airtel Money or M-Pesa to send to the merchant. Merchants, in turn, find it harder here to cheat customers upfront.
Kenya is ready to go global with our services, not just our agricultural products. We are further competitive in the service sector in that our workforce shows a strong work ethic, we are highly educated, and we speak some of the highest quality English with some of the most perceived beautiful accents anywhere in the Anglophone world.
Let us continue to champion strong customer quality relationships and take our services around the continent, across the oceans, and throughout the world.