Are you worried that you are not attracting and retaining clients? Are you hearing your clients complain about your services and products? Do you sincerely believe that you can serve your clients better than you are doing currently? And do you want your clients to serve as great ambassadors for your business?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may need to re-focus on your first love— the clients who brought you into business! This article discusses who the client is, types of clients, what client service is, and what makes a loyal client.

HOW IS CLIENT SERVICE DEFINED?

Client service is defined differently across different sectors. It is however essential to ask ourselves how client service is defined or classified in the microfinance industry. The client is said to be the reason for being in business, such that without the client there would be no business at all.

Client service therefore is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well; going beyond the expected; adding value and integrity to every interaction with the client; being at your best with each client; going the extra mile to keep clients happy and satisfied.

There are two (2) classifications of clients in any institution, namely: the internal client and the external client.

THE INTERNAL CLIENT

Who do you give service to within the institution? And who do you receive service from within the institution? These are your internal clients. Superior service to the internal client translates to superior service to the external client.

How should a microfinance company offer excellent client service to its internal clients? A number of tips for achieving this are as follows.

  • Change your perspective; view your colleagues as clients;
  • View interruptions not as nuisances, but as opportunities to serve your internal client;
  • Understand the procedures and workflows for the departments you interact with;
  • Do not serve the cake half-baked; provide complete information, forms, etc. for timely processing of client issues;
  • Be a good time keeper; respect deadlines;
  • Be professional; do not expect ‘exceptions’ to rules and procedures;
  • Focus on problems and not personalities;
  • Effectively communicate to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings;
  • Hold regular meetings to iron out issues as they happen; and
  • Say ‘Thank You’ and MEAN the ‘Thank You’.

A happy and satisfied internal client would reciprocate the good service to the external client, which will translate into ‘loyalty’ from clients.

THE EXTERNAL CLIENT

The external client is defined as existing clients (to be retained), exited or dropouts (to be recovered), and potential clients (to be acquired).

The ultimate objective of client service is to build client loyalty. Microfinance institutions need to focus on improving client service because excellent service creates retention and loyalty, builds word-of-mouth business, helps in overcoming competitive disadvantages, differentiates you from your competitors, increases market share and long-term survival of the MFI, and helps the institution to work more efficiently. Through exhibiting good client service, one can attract loyal clients.

THE LOYAL CLIENT

The loyal client is one who accesses and uses your products on a regular basis; uses many types of the products you offer; refers your products and services to others; and is not influenced or won over by your competition. Loyal clients establish a good reputation in the market, increase revenue, generate new sales, are likely to buy other products, and make it easier for MFIs to predict sales and profits.

WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF LOSING A CLIENT?

  1. Dissatisfied clients tell an average of ten (10) people about their bad experience. Bad news spreads faster than good news. Losing a client means that you cannot attract new clients and you may be losing existing clients.
  2. Satisfied clients tell an average of five (5) people about their positive experience. Satisfied clients do your marketing for you by telling friends and family about the great service you give them. Though good news does not spread as fast as bad news, the more satisfied clients you have will let the service you render speak and market for you.
  3. It costs five (5) times more money to attract a new client than to keep an existing one. It is easier and less costly to maintain an existing client than to attract new ones. When an existing client is happy, he/ she does the marketing for you, which reduces your cost in attracting clients.
  4. 96% of dissatisfied clients do not complain of poor service. Being in the dark concerning the root cause of problems means not solving them on time and having drastic results.
  5. 95% of dissatisfied clients will become loyal clients again if their complaints are handled well and quickly. Handling complaints and grievances of clients on time will encourage them to stay and will discourage them from telling others about their dissatisfaction.

 

TIPS FOR IMPROVING CLIENT SERVICE

Moving forward, all Microfinance Companies (MFCs) would have to further improve on- going client service initiatives. Although various factors influence client service delivery, the following factors are considered key and should guide any microfinance company that is desirous of improving the quality of client service:

  1. The culture of the MFC towards client service is critical; management and staff must believe that they exist to serve clients and not the reverse. This is a philosophy that must run through all levels of the MFC.
  2. Quality of staff of the MFC is critical. Staff must be trained in client service and be rewarded for good client service. This will be achieved by making client service a key part of performance assessment.
  3. Product and service knowledge level among all staff must be a priority to ensure that interaction with clients is driven by knowledge.
  4. Ensure that the physical setting facilitates client privacy and interaction; products are responsive to client needs; and an environment for learning and continuous improvement on products and services is fostered.

Managers of MFCs in particular should see to the establishment of a culture of client service; set the standards in respect of customer service; ensure compliance with standards by all staff; develop and implement a sanctions and rewards framework that supports customer service delivery; and celebrate staff who are client-centred.

For example, managers must consider setting performance standards that guide client service in areas such as waiting time in banking hall; waiting period prior to disbursement of loan or next-cycle loan; loan processing time; savings withdrawal time; time taken to respond to different categories of complaints; and reversal of wrong entries. These standards have to be tracked and reported on to serve as feedback to further improve client service on a continuous basis. Let us make a difference!

{This article was developed from a PowerPoint Presentation on Client Orientation and Protection for MFIs Training for Field and Frontline Staff. It was prepared by MicroSave and CDC Consult Ltd. under the sponsorship of GIZ.}
By Angela Esi Daisie

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