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Loyalty – customer service comes first!

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In the Middle East there is no shortage of customer engagement programmes.  Airline and telecom loyalty programmes, retail offers, daily deals, credit card promotions, standard product promotions – the market is saturated with brands promoting their products and services trying to gain customer loyalty, increase market share and retain their customers.  The investment surely runs into millions of dollars!

From my own experience a great deal of reward and engagement programmes in the region are good, trend setting and are by and large are achievable.  Sadly, customer service within some of the organisations promoting these programmes is not on an equal or superior par to their aspirations for their reward programmes.  I cannot claim there are no exceptions as I don’t think anyone can say they have tried them all and not all industries are service industries!  I am sure there are some good examples and I take my hat off to anyone in whatever industry they operate who is dedicated to providing outstanding customer service within a B2C environment especially in banking, leisure and general retail.  Sadly banking, the travel sector and dining sectors especially need to up their game as customers are now more demanding than ever before.

I can’t help thinking however, that the problem does not stand with front line employees who often bear the brunt of a customer’s dissatisfaction.  I don’t believe anyone wants to openly provide a substandard level of service.  I do think there is a lack of training available to customer service staff and that companies are not investing enough in their people and there is an imbalance between the investment in loyalty and engagement initiatives, where programmes are designed to meet the requirements of the business and ultimately could, but are then let down by a lack of investment in people– especially when things do not always go to plan and front line staff are not educated in how to manage disputes and potentially may make matters worse.

Let’s not forget the Middle East region is in its infancy!  However, it does have the means and assets available to be world class in many ways, and not just in being ‘the first’, ‘the biggest’, and ‘the most innovative’.  These are statements we all hear every day and often tell our vendors and customers. 

However, brands must not lose sight when sitting at the top of some of the world’s tallest buildings.  Those people on the ground are your biggest asset in driving loyalty to your business.  Until customer service is on par with what is promoted in communications to drive your business, your loyalty and engagement strategy – it will not drive your business if you do not get the basics right and achieve parity between product, customer service strategy.  Customer Service comes first and then loyalty and rewards will follow!

Agree/disagree – what do you think?  Is there enough investment in people and it’s a case of a few bad apples?  Maybe I am unlucky in that I cannot recollect an example (in the past 5 years) of service that was representative of the high prices Middle East consumers have to pay!

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