Customer service

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Photo: Anteneh Aklilu

Aschalew Tamiru works with Dashen Bank, as Director-Marketing and Customer Experience. He is among the first Marketing Management graduates of the Addis Ababa University. He has a total of 16 years of working experience. He has also been a lecturer of Marketing and Management courses in various Universities and Colleges for more than eight years.
His industry experience started when he joined Commercial Bank of Ethiopia as a first post graduate management trainee and served the Bank in different capacities including marketing, Branch manager and internal trainer. Currently, he conducts trainings for the National Bank of Ethiopia and other institutions. He is also on the jury of Dashen Kefta Entrepreneurship contest, Dashen Bank’s Ethiopian talent power serious which is part of Dashen’s corporate social responsibility initiative. He is also the founding member of Ethiopian Marketing Professionals Association. He recently authored a book titled “Make a difference with customer service” that focus on marketing and customer service. He talked to Capital about his new book and other branding concepts. Excerpts;

Capital: Can you please give us an overview about your new book?
Aschalew Tamiru: The book has a total of four parts. The first chapter discusses about basics of customer service, external and internal customers, customer personality style and other related facts.
The second part rises ‘why customer is top priority for companies?’ and presents practical facts and responses. Customer service principles, what do customers ever buy, positive attitude and customer service and building high performance team for good customer service are the other issues discussed in the chapter.
Chapter three is about how companies or businesses operating in the same industry with the same services or products to sell to the customers use customer service as a tool to make a difference and stand out from the competition. That is customer service and sometimes it is the only differentiating factor between organizations that contributes to greater customer retention loyalty and long term profitability. Furthermore, issues such as Customer’s First Impressions Effective Communication and Customer Service, Conversation over the Telephone, Business Email Communication and Major Do’s and Don’ts of Customer Service are well addressed.
Under the final chapter of the book customers of various types are discussed and it lends tools to deal with these customers. Issues like communicating with unsatisfied customers, dimensions of customer service, solving customers’ problems, customer service recovery, moment of truth, follow-up with the customer, quality customer service and benefits of good customer service are presented.

Capital: What is your reason to publish the book?
Aschalew: I have taught marketing and management courses at various universities, marketing as a profession gives top priority for customers.
Companies practicing Marketing philosophy in their work place, believes that customer is the most important person who pays everyone’s salary and who decides whether a business is going to succeed or fail. In fact, the customer can fire everybody in the company from the chairman (CEO) on down, and he or she can do it simply by spending his money somewhere else. Literally, everything we do, every concept perceived, every technology developed and associate employed, is directed with this one objective clearly in mind – pleasing the customer.
As a marketing and branding professional, I always question myself about my contribution and role in bridging the gap between this marketing thoughts and principles and what customers are practically experiencing at most companies of the country.
Ethiopians have thousands of years of hospitality culture in welcoming guests at our home, why this is not reflected and practiced at work place is the other reason that pushed me to write the book.

Capital: How do you evaluate our working culture and customer handling?
Aschalew: As a society, Ethiopians are very hospitable and friendly in welcoming guests to their home, but this may not be always true while one is visiting companies operating in the country. I strongly believe that the hospitable culture of the society that is only limited at home should be extended to every company and practiced as well. This enables the companies to satisfy customers with their services, to make a difference and win customers.

Capital: You have been a lecturer at higher education institutions. Do you think there are suitable lessons regarding customer service?
Aschalew: Well, customer service is the one and main aspect of marketing; generally marketing is the young discipline around the globe. Marketing is everywhere. In every walk of our life, we deal with marketing. I strongly believe that comparing to other disciplines, marketing has received the least attention among companies. Following this, most companies’ marketing departments are led by non-marketing professionals.
When one sees our universities, their marketing department didn’t have customer service course in their curriculum. Only some aspect of customer service is enclosed in some courses of marketing. Universities should incorporate separate customer service course in their curriculum and deliver it to the marketing students.

Capital: What will your book contribute to the field?
Aschalew: Whether one is new to his/her service role, looking for a job as a service provider, need a good refresher in the basics of exceptional customer service, or a trainer, this book will be helpful and an input in need.
Industries such as Banks, Insurances, Hotel and the likes whose services or products are somehow similar, may make a difference among themselves by working more on customer service.
Customer service is not a department, rather is an attitude. Customer facing staff must have a positive attitude towards serving customers. Once the staff has a positive attitude, their knowledge and skill gaps can easily be bridged through customer service trainings and reading. In this regard, the contribution of this book is invaluable.

Capital: How is the feedback?
Aschalew: The feedback is very encouraging. The first five thousand copies have been sold out and the second round of publication is under way and it will be in the market by this week.
I’m receiving a phone call from various distributors to distribute the book; so far Jafar and Ha-Hu book stores are the main distributors. To make the book more accessible to the readers I’m advising the main distributor to distribute it to all book stores and walk in retailers. Besides, the book will be available in super markets soon.

Capital: Do you have any other work in the near future?
Aschalew: I have been determined to contribute my part to bring changes in the marketing of companies operating in Ethiopia; publishing the Book entitled ‘Make a Difference with Customer Service” is part of this effort. In addition to translating the book to Amharic and make available to the market, I have finalized my preparation to publish practical salesmanship book.
I also want to take part in the promotion of volunteerisms in the country. To this end, from the sales of the book, I decided to donate 10% to charity organizations.
Non-existence of proper customer service is already a problem in most places. The problem is more serious in public government organizations. To contribute my part as a Marketing and Branding professional, once the book is published in Amharic and COVID19 is eradicated; in collaboration with media and my marketing fellow friends I’m planning to organize a campaign to deliver customer service trainings to selected customers facing employees of public government organizations for free.