Nairobi-based mSurvey and Owen CX Group have partnered to develop the first Industry Net Promoter Score (NPS) for Africa.
This is an internationally recognized benchmarking practice that is used to gauge the loyalty of a company’s customer relationships.
More than 50 per cent of Fortune 500 companies use the metric to measure the loyalty of their customers.
I was privileged to attend the launch of the first NPS Masterclass in Africa that took place in Nairobi last week.
Participants had the opportunity to understand the art of NPS and acquired a sophisticated view of how the world’s best companies build customer experience leadership to drive growth, as well as skills on applying the NPS methodology to an African consumer group.
This is a good idea not just for Kenya but also for the continent as a whole, as there has been an ongoing search for ways to grow companies beyond the borders of individual countries.
The secret to growth and innovation for any organisation, and for any nation for that matter, is the ability to give the customer the best experience possible.
That is why many companies use NPS as the tool to constantly monitor customer experience. It is why companies like Apple stay ahead of the pack.
When I spoke to mSurvey’s COO Claire Munene, she was unequivocal that this new benchmarking tool was a real game changer for business-ready companies.
By equipping companies with a better understanding of how loyal their customers are, how likely they are to recommend their favourite company, businesses are better positioned to anticipate and manage any changes they need to make for growth.
In order to foster a competitive business environment and drive growth, there is no version of reality where any business can afford to ignore the area of customer experience and loyalty.
This is a relatively new discipline for African companies to apply, but an area that is seeing considerable growth.
MSurvey, which works with Safaricom, Java House and Kenya Commercial Bank, among other companies, has seen significant growth in the past 12 months, as companies flock to them to help them better understand their customers.
OWNING ONE'S STORY
Speaking at the launch, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala lauded the two organisations for building the capacities in Africa and for leveraging this tool that has hitherto been used only by telecommunications companies in Africa.
He emphasiSed the fact that it was not just organisations that needed the tool but nations like Kenya that are struggling to compete in the tourism sector.
To drive his point home, he gave several examples where if Kenya paid more attention, it would improve its standing as one of the best destinations for tourists.
He narrated several cases where the country often fails to see the need to offer great customer service including ports of entry that are often the first encounters with tourists.
He said, “There is great need for the Kenyan story to be owned and told by Kenyans themselves – right from immigration officers and taxi drivers at the airports, to bouncers and workers in our hotels, to the traders in our shops and markets to the citizens on the streets.
"We all must give our visitors the positive narrative of Kenya to make their visits absolutely magical. But as a tourism industry, we are not really noticeable in this narrative. I believe that unless we change that, we will be missing a unique opportunity – maybe even a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – to survive and thrive.”
CUSTOMER SERVICE TRAINING
We have many people who interact with first-time customers in the Kenyan tourism sector but they have never had any training on how to handle customers.
These include taxi drivers, watchmen, tour operators, ordinary citizens, customs and immigration officials. He reiterated the need to constantly monitor customer experience in order to increase repeat customers from the current 30 per cent to a much higher percentage like other competitor nations. Neglecting customers may be costing the country millions of dollars.
The minister also made comparisons of several airports including Jomo Kenyatta, Dubai, Changi in Singapore and Heathrow in London.
While Dubai and Changi stand out in customer experience, Heathrow and Jomo Kenyatta have issues.
The signage in Dubai that clearly welcomes you is in stark contrast with Heathrow’s signage, which has no welcome message but a reminder that you are within Border Control.
Jomo Kenyatta borrows in this declaration of authority from Heathrow but fails in signage. So the customer simply follows the crowd.
And even when you ask the officials, mostly guards, they have no idea of what is where.
Then the tourists are driven into Nairobi and other parts of the country where there are no signage for directions, road signs and general information. I leave you to conclude the kind of impression the customer goes back to his country with.
One of the firsts that Kenya has with customer experience is the new gateway into the airport.
It is a nightmare that any customer visiting the airport dreads. Here you have young inexperienced National Youth Service recruits who take pleasure in ordering everybody in the vehicles to disembark and go through the security check.
Without notice, they order you, “Get out” and begin scrutinising your vehicle.
Whilst I understand the need for security after several setbacks in the country, it is important to always pay attention to individual liberties.
I have been to hundreds of airports but nowhere in the world, including terror-prone countries, have I seen people suffer such indignity. Yet we never bother to seek feedback from customer experience.
The number of watchmen confirms the narrative that Kenya is unsafe in any facility in Kenya.
Even as you drive out of a parking yard, if you are not careful you could easily run over a watchman trying to direct you how to reverse the car and as soon as he is through (never mind that he probably has never driven a car) he says “sasa boss” (now sir). Which is supposed to mean that you have not paid for service.
Many organisations have no idea how much these watchmen irritate customers and how it undermines future interactions. This behaviour throws off the customers. Some will avoid any revisits or simply get offended but keep suffering without bitterness.
Since the series of terrorist attacks in Kenya, we have suffered the indignity of security checks, some of which are completely unnecessary. We must begin to explore the balance between security and violation of one’s rights.
In virtually every facility, there are security people. From their interaction with customers, the knowledge they lack most is customer relations.
In most cases the experience with watchmen does not auger well. Time has come to investigate whether this intrusive security is precipitated by security business or we really have a serious security threat.
There is greater benefit in growing many more businesses with better customer experience than growing the number of security enterprises.
We may end up attracting more than 5 million tourists if the experience of those who visit helps to raise the profile of the country.
In the coming days as the Cabinet is being crafted, it would perhaps make great sense to create the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality whose responsibility will encompass the airport authority and immigration components.
It will perhaps change the Jomo Kenyatta Airport Authority to something refreshing like Jomo Kenyatta Hospitality Centre.
The word authority has the connotation of negative power that is not consistent with the kind of branding we need in Kenya.
Tourism establishments and virtually any organisation that wants to grow its brand must embrace independent feedback that provides insights to employees and their interaction with customers.
Telecommunications companies who embraced the idea of measuring customer loyalty have generally done well with respect to customer experience.
Many other organisations, as well as nations in Africa, need to embrace this idea and begin to attract more customers from other parts of the globe.
Steve Jobs once said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business.