Opinion

Fiji’s Move For Better Customer Service

Indian academic Anirudha Bansod has worked at the Fiji National University, as well as in India, the Middle East, New Zealand, and Australia. He holds a Master of Management (New
13 Dec 2015 10:27
Fiji’s Move For Better Customer Service

Indian academic Anirudha Bansod has worked at the Fiji National University, as well as in India, the Middle East, New Zealand, and Australia. He holds a Master of Management (New Zealand) and a PhD in Marketing (Australia), with specialisation in Relational Marketing in technology products. He can be contacted at andybansod@hotmail.com

 

I applaud Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport Parveen Kumar for raising an issue of customer service and promised reshuffle in the Land Transport Authority.

He stated very clearly that he has given directives to LTA to improve the customer service and operate on Saturday and extend the opening hours. Good work minister.

He realised the customer service in Fiji is degrading, especially, when the government is pushing smartly to grow the service sector efficiently.

The question is, whether LTA, Fiji only has issue of customer service or other organisation facing the same issue. A lot of other organisations looking at LTA as if they have been really bad.

Over a period of time LTA, Fiji has improved their productivity, which we all can vouch. However, the customer’s expectation is increasing day by day.

This is not in Fiji or Pacific or oceanic region, but all over the world, customer from service provider expectation is increasing every day.

Whether it is a product or service related, consumer certainly expecting much larger recognition toward their money spending.

Government of Fiji doing excellent job in all the sector, including agriculture, infrastructure, health, technology, tourism, commodity, retail and all other remaining sectors.

Ordinary citizen to corporate executive will appreciate that because of existing government policy and its implementation, residents of Fiji are enjoying the growth and basic utilities and infrastructure.

Over a period of time, the productivity of Fiji is improved compared to their counterpart pacific nations. A Fijian resident’s disposable income has gone up and they are willing to spend more.

This is a consumer market, where ordinary citizen has confidence in their government and willing to spend money either in investment or in their own consumption.

Economic growth of the country is the foundation of solid balance economy and solid platform for the next generation to enjoy the basic necessity of life.

Today Fiji is standing on a strong foundation of foreign exchange reserves and investment is coming into the country from Foreign Direct investment (FDI) and local businesses demonstrating their confidence on the economy to improve the economic benchmark of Fiji.

Rise of GDP and increasing export revenue is another factor to reduce the trade balance.

We can see the road condition improved, hospital beds increased, retail industry expanding, new manufacturing set up is coming in tax free zone, IT companies venturing into the Fijian market and the Fijian Made brand is taking quiet a good momentum.

All in all, we can see the things are really going well for Fijians to enjoy the decent life style in Fiji.

However, one thing we all can experience is declining rapidly is customer service in Fiji.

When the growth becomes a major driving objective of any organisation, whether in the private sector or government entity, the decline in customer service quality is really alarming situation for each and every organisation.

The Fijian economy is a predominantly service industry, where manufacturing set up is reasonably small. Having big service industry naturally expects to have greater efficiency in customer service.

 

Tourism

Fiji is known in the world tourism industry as the most friendly, approachable, supportive, understanding and smarter in treating their tourist by welcoming in the traditional manner.

Fijian residents have natural ingredients of hospitality in their genes of soft hearted, broad smile, positive attitude, ego less personality, hardworking and friendly characteristics.

However, these welcoming characteristics are slowly declining in domestic market. It is good we treat tourist as important two customers, so they help us to grow Fijian economy, create a word of mouth publicity and get an exceptional experience of hospitality in Fiji during their vacations.

However, when it comes to the domestic market, our same approach of friendly customer service changes the switch and move into more self-centred, self-benefited, controlled and short term customer service. Isn’t it annoying that customer service should be uniform, consistent, reliable, trustworthy, and satisfactory for each and every person?

Whether tourist or domestic residents, everyone pays the value to get a product or service and naturally expect to get basic customer service from the service provider.

However, we conveniently forget to give extraordinary customer service to our own residents, but love to change our switch when it comes to overseas tourist.

Whether it is Telco, Retail, Hotel, Taxi service, Hotel accommodation, Courier, Medical practice, Education, Food outlets and others, decline in customer service is clearly experienced by Fijian residents over a period of time.

For example, most of the restaurants increased their price over a period of time, when their expenses increased.

It is understandable that their cost has gone up and they have to increase the price of their products. However, they forgot to give value to customers when they increased the price.

Their quantity of food and ingredients in serving food and quantity has dropped down substantially.

One of the major semi-government entity in Fiji was initially focussed on giving extraordinary customer service to all their customers when they saw the competition getting intensive in the Fijian market.

However, their quality of service becomes a big question mark in current period.

Today, the organisations start showing policy and procedure to the customer when it comes to giving value to the customers.

It is not a bad idea to have policy and procedure framework for smooth functioning of organisation.

However, policy and procedures are meant for customer’s benefit who are utilising the services in a good faith. Therefore, having friendly policy document is what we need and not a policy which talks about punishing customers, staff and other stakeholders.

The question we need to ask ourselves whether we bother about this decline in service quality.

Do we feel concern about not getting the value we deserve to get in exchange of our money? Probably Yes or Probably Not.

When consumer disposable income rises, they give little attention to the desired service quality. Research indicates, the quality of service is minutely observed and experienced when it come to a high investment product like house, car, insurance, land, marriage ceremony and other high cost products.

The risk of financial and functional is quite high in high investment product and consumer give much attention on quality of the service.

However, when it comes to low investment products where the purchase cost is less like lunch, chocolates, tea, point of sale product, grocery items, movie DVD, stationary items etc., then the consumer risk of financial and functional is very low.

That’s where consumer don’t bother too much on quality of the service. However, consumers do have expected service from low investment products as well.

So, when the customer service starts declining in low involvement products as well, the mass consumer base reacts and stop purchasing those products or services.

Take an example few years back, Fiji used to have taxi which was old, dirty, lousy and noisy.

In 2015, Fijian residents can see lots of new taxis with clean, neat, well organised interior, clean glass windows, polite drivers in the new generation taxi service.

Now, customer have two options. Either use old version of the taxi which is dirty and new version of the taxi which is clean. The rate/ kilometre is same for both taxi.

This is where consumer prefers to have the newer version of the taxi for their own cleanliness and their pride to go in a good quality taxi.

Look at the shift in consumer behaviour changing, when they have option. Those days are not too far, when consumer starts rejecting those shops, products and services, where the quality of service is deteriorating. Getting good service and value for money is a consumer fundamental right and not accepting whatever comes on their plate.

It’s high time, Fijians stand and let the service and product provider know that they are not happy with the delivery of their service or product quality.

This is where organisations like Consumer Council of Fiji, Fiji Commerce Commission, government food inspection bodies and other audit organisation check regularly the quality of product and service.

Consumer Council and other statutory organisations are acting on behalf of customer complaints, however it will be more productive if they visit various sector wise organisations to check their quality of product and service for all Fijians.

Merely checking the service on cleanliness and hygiene is not sufficient, but checking the entire customer purchase process and whether customer getting value for the money is what these government and other statutory organisations should check on regular basis.

If these organisations are not vigilant, customer service is going to get worse in the Fijian market. As Fiji is in growth mode; the private, government, semi government organisation leaders are focusing on growth and making better profit for their own investment or shareholders.

Today, businesses realised that their long term sustainability of business and making profit is based on building long term relationship with their customers.

Research indicates, retention of customers is reasonably easy and cheap compare to acquiring new customers.

The traditional business platform was based on making profit without indulging in customer relationship.

They use to work on transaction oriented approach, where the buyer-seller relationship is restricted to short term business association.

The current era of business is more dynamic in relationship maintaining, where buyer and seller both want to know each other likings, habits, psychology, family size, profession, gender, income, purchasing patterns, creditability, and lot other factors to know each other in the deepest sense.

The era of understanding the customer life cycle becomes absolutely important for having their customers for life on their business canvass.

Businesses wanted to know how much each customer spend for their entire life from their business.

The customer life cycle, where customer spend X amount of money from a particular establishment for his/her entire life span and business making the profit from customers purchase is what businesses are analysing from their existing and prospective customers.

Multinational companies are evaluating the customer life cycle and their revenue as an individual and a family spending for their entire life.

That’s where they design and implement their customer service to pass on benefits to customers through loyalty rewards.

Today’s customers are more challenging. They are not like our grandparents and parents who use to be loyal to a particular brand of retail or product for their entire life.

Today, the X and Y generation customers have more options. They wish to try new products, new brand, new retail outlets and they try shopping on an Omni channel platform of Brick and mortar store (Physical store) and online store as well.

That means, there is certainly a lack of loyalty from customer end to their supplier whether it is Business to Customer (B2C) or Business to Business (B2B).

The modern generation consumer behaviour is more about trying new things, taking bigger risks, opting for best, admiring the brand image and not worrying for the long term utility of the product and services.

With this change in consumer behaviours of X and Y generation consumers, the companies are establishing a new department called “Consumer Insight” to study the consumer psychology and how they react and behave while pre shopping, shopping and post shopping experience.

Based on the research outcome, organisation design their customer service to make their customer happy, satisfied and delightful.

Organisation efforts should be to arrest the shifting behaviour of new generation customer and lock them in their product and services as much as they can and consider their life cycle pattern of shopping by extending superior quality service to each and every customer visit their premises.

Organisation need to train their staff and build a culture of quality service irrespective of customer social status, religion, gender, income power, race and all other discriminatory characteristics.

Listening to customer give insight of their expectation, which unfortunately a lot of business and government organisations are conveniently forgetting.

Considering this new wagon of X and Y generation customers and their psychology to continuously hunt something new, it is critical for each and every organisation to improve and maintain the highest quality of service.

The success of business and long term sustainability in volatile industry falls with commitment, culture of quality service and making customers happy in their entire purchase process.

Whereas Government organisations and all employees need to understand that their revenue, profit, salaries, bonuses, increments, are paid by the ordinary residents of the country, who pay taxes to the government.

That means, whether government or business organisation, quality of customer service cannot be compromised at any level.

It’s time to recall the famous statement of Mahatma Gandhi, “Customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him/her. He/she is not an interruption in our business, but he/she is the purpose of our work. He/she is not an outsider in our business. He/she is part of it. We are not doing a favour by serving him/her. He/she is doing a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”.

Change in attitude and developing a culture of service in organisation certainly need to focus on giving positive customer service.

Fijian consumers are reasonably tolerant and happy naturally, but not appreciating their investment and spending with their long term association is not going to be accepted phenomena in coming years. Forget about customer delight, Fijian residents definitely deserve minimum good quality of customer service from all their suppliers.

 

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