ICSP calls for Customer Service code to improve standards

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By: Anthony Sedzro

Have you ever ordered a bottle of Coke and you were offered Pepsi instead, and when you complained you were told there is not much difference between the two? Have you called someone on a mobile phone and you were told the phone is turned off meanwhile the person is standing next to you? Have you entered the bank and you were informed that “the system is down”? Have you had any bad customer service lately? Well, all of that may be about to change.

Ghana must, as a matter of urgency, introduce a Customer Service Code to guide the delivery of services both in the public and private sectors of the economy, according to Yvonne Ohui MacCarty, the President of the Institute of Customer Service Professionals (ICSP) Ghana. This code of conduct, must be adhered to by anybody who renders a service or offers a product for sale to the consuming public. This Customer Service Code must come with its attendant punitive sanctions.

Yvonne MacCarthy thinks that the current state of customer service both in the public and private sectors in Ghana is appalling and nothing to write home about. This means the interest of customers is not protected.

To resolve this, MacCarthy said: “We need to have a national Customer Service code of conduct adhered to by any, and everybody, providing a service, or selling a product in Ghana.”

This Customer Service code of conduct should be administered by a statutory body with powers of enforcement, she said.

“A customer service regulatory body which would exercise a regulatory function, that is, imposing requirements, restrictions and conditions; setting standards in relation to any customer service activity, and securing compliance, or enforcement,” she argued.

“The Office of Fair Trading in the United Kingdom (UK) is an example of such a regulator,” MacCarthy cited.

The ICSP President was speaking at the launch of the Ghana Customer Service Index at the British Council on 19th December, 2017. The index, which was an initiative of the ICSP, is focused on encouraging the human capital of Ghanaians and ultimately increasing productivity in the economy.

Over the years, many Ghanaians have complained of poor service experience when they visit, especially government institutions, to access a service. Private companies are not spared either.

According to MacCarthy, “A Ghana Statistical Service report, up until 2015, showed that the Ghanaian domestic economy revolved around services, which accounted for 54.1 percent of GDP and employed over 30 percent of the work force in Ghana compared to Agriculture and Industry.”

She said with majority of activity in the economy revolving around the service industry, customer service must be taken seriously. She indicated that most Ghanaians are unaware of their rights or what to do when they are treated unfairly.

It is to change this poor customer service culture in Ghana that the Institute decided to establish the annual Ghana Customer Service Index (GCSI), which will be a research ranking of customer service delivery in eight industries in the first week of October every year. It will name and shame poor customer service organisations. By name-shaming institutions that offer poor customer service, ICSP hopes the bad publicity will push those institutions to improve their service offering to the public.

The index will be followed by a Ghana Service Excellence Awards in the last week of October as a way of recognising and rewarding best practices in customer service.

“We are determined, through the index and the awards, to enhance the customer service discourse and to recognise organisations who take customer service seriously,” she declared.

Kojo Frempong (left), Head of Programmes, Ministry of Business Development and Yvonne Ohui MacCarthy, President of ISCP at the event
Kojo Frempong (left), Head of Programmes, Ministry of Business Development and Yvonne Ohui MacCarthy, President of ISCP at the event

Present at the launch was also Kojo Frempong, Head of Programmes at the Ministry of Business Development, who said that, in the past, many investors parted with sums of money for contracts to be pushed through for them but got duped. Other investors alleged that their concerns were not listened to.

“So all these unfortunate experiences culminated in a terrible investment climate both for local businesses and foreign ones…We failed to take care of our customer needs in the past and this is no secret,” he said.

“But there is a break and a total overhauling of the investment climate and, thanks to the wisdom of the president, (Nana Akufo-Addo), he set up the Ministry of Business Development…to facilitate what we want the business climate of Ghana to be,” Frempong said assuring participants at the event of a coming change.

According to Frempong, customer service is poor in Ghana because of three reasons: misunderstanding of what business means, an underwhelming view of what the customer wants, and the inability to aspire to standards.

The Ghana Customer Service Index is a yearly report that would be published in the first week of October. The index would provide insight into the state of customer service in Ghana.  The report would initially focus on 8 key sectors: Financial institutions,utilities, telecommunications, hospitality, healthcare, retail food and non-food, public institutions and online businesses.

GCSI would use a 3-component approach; research, traditional surveys (face-to-face, telephone and written questionnaires) and online surveys as a basis to measure the performance of businesses vis-à-vis their customer relations. The Index will also determine the “degree of satisfaction” of customers who patronise the services of companies -both private and public.

The Institute of Customer Service Professionals (ICSP) is an independent institute, solely dedicated to training and providing holistic and specialised customer service solutions and strategies for individuals and organisations in all sectors and industries, particularly in Africa.

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