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The customer’s perception is your reality

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Customer service excellence has been a main determinant for success. It’s one of the key factors that gives competitive advantage to any business. Tonny Allesandra said, “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.”
And Jerry Fritz echoed the same sentiments when he said “You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.” It’s very critical that your customers get the best service ever.

Every business should focus on good customer service if it has to succeed. Customer service is how you treat your customers, how you serve them, and how you deliver the product or service to them. At the end of the day the customer is the best person to define what good customer service is!
When you are servicing a customer your aim should be to meet the needs and expectations of your customers. So everything that an organisation is doing must be focused at pleasing its customers.

In any case the key stakeholder for every organisation is the customer. What we should realise is that customers are prepared to pay for excellent service. The surge in social media and globalisation of companies has meant that companies are facing a lot of good quality service demands from customers.

With social media, customers and potential customers can easily share both favourable opinions and criticism of an organisation’s service on forums, blogs, service review sites and social networking sites.  Every organisation should therefore strive to build a strong reputation for quality service as this is a key differentiator in competitive markets and does create the required competitive edge to leapfrog the competition.

As an organisation providing service to its customers if your service is poor customers will quickly look for alternatives. Excellent service is essential to satisfying your customers and retaining their loyalty so that they will continue to buy from your organisation in the future.

Excellent service is critical to the future viability of your organisation since it makes an important contribution to long-term revenue and profitability.
There are certain key factors that every organisation should address when providing services to its customers. Customers will be loyal once a company pays attention to these factors. The importance of each of these factors will differ with each organisation and so you need to put more focus on the ones that are very critical for your organisation.

You can determine what your customers want by carrying out a customer satisfaction survey. The factors you need to consider are reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and tangibles. Customers value the reliability of a service provider. A customer expects you, the service provider to do what you said you’re going to do when you said you were going to do it. Customers do count on their providers.

Your organisation should be very responsive to the queries being raised by customers. You should respond quickly, promptly, rapidly, immediately, instantly to customers’ queries.  Taking a day to return a call or email or not responding at all will not work. Customers can’t take that. It’s important that customers feel service providers are responsive to their needs.

If a customer has to say your service is excellent he/she needs to get assurance of the service that you are providing. As a service provider you are expected to be the expert of the service you’re delivering.  It’s a given. So it’s important that you communicate your expertise and competence to customers so that they raise their confidence in you. In support of your competences you might have to display your qualifications or accolades that your organisation and employees have won.

When providing service customers want to feel that you care. They want empathy. How you deliver your service is as important as how you behave when you do it. Are you smiling or you are sulky.
It’s important for service providers to train employees on how to interact with customers when providing service. The customer should feel at home and well cared for.

Lastly it is very important that the appearance is good. Customers want employees who look presentable, have good appearance, nice uniforms, using clean equipment, and working in areas that look good. So when customers are assessing the quality of your service they will look at all these factors. Service providers need to work on all five.  It’s very important that you know what the customer expects of you. Most organisations fail to meet customer expectations because of a number of factors. Sometimes the organisation does not know what the customer wants.

In that case you might end up providing what the customer does not want. In certain instances you might have already formed your own idea about what the customer expects from your service.  If this idea is wrong from the start and does not correspond to what customers actually expect, there is a significant risk that the organisation will build this into its quality policy and operating rules and thereby provide the wrong service altogether.
Another challenge is when an organisation offers service that is different from what the consumer had expected. This could be a result of an employee implementing a policy wrongly. ]

Sam Walton said, “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.”
l Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy (ACCA P3), advanced performance management (P5) and entrepreneurship.

He provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, preparation of business plans and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.

For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: sjakarasi@gmail.com or WhatsApp +266 62110062.

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Jobs galore for Lesotho

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94 000 jobs.

That is what the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-Lesotho) will create in the next 10 years, according to Prime Minister Sam Matekane.

The MCA-Lesotho was created by the Lesotho parliament last year after the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) found Lesotho eligible to receive development funds.

The MCC gives development grants to poor countries that respects democratic principles and human rights.

The MCC has unlocked a staggering US$322 million (over M5 billion) to the government of Lesotho after the country enacted three laws the protect people’s basic rights this week.

Matekane advised youths to visit MCA-Lesotho offices to understand how best they can benefit from the fund and the projects that will be financed.

The MCC’s investments are aimed at increasing the availability of water for household and industrial use, enhance watershed management and conservation methods, rehabilitate health infrastructure and strengthen health systems, and remove barriers to private investment.

The MCA-Lesotho’s Health and Horticulture Compact seeks to assist the country in unlocking equitable and sustainable economic growth in partnership with the private sector by addressing key constraints to growth.

Matekane said the job creation potential of the horticulture project alone is estimated at 4 000 jobs.

This excludes indirect jobs that will be created through packaging supplies, logistics, cold chain activities as well as the processing of the output.

“Let us all be ready and ensure we spend all the funding that is available,” Matekane said.

He said the money is going to be invested in agriculture, trade and industry, value chains, infrastructure development, tourism and creative sectors.

“The Compact has come at a critical time when the country is in dire need of financial injections to revive the economy,” he said.

“This second Compact forms the core of Lesotho’s private sector-led economic growth, recovery and job creation agenda.”

He said the MCA staff should work diligently, to implement this Compact.

“There are several Basotho businesses out there that are eager to seize the opportunities that the Compact brings,” Matekane said.

“Serve them with integrity, accountability and dedication.”

Matekane said the government has established the Cabinet Sub-Committee on the Compact which is under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Nthomeng Majara.

The sub-committee is mandated to ensure that the government provides overall oversight, strategic direction and support for successful implementation of the Compact.

He said he expects the MCA-Lesotho to ensure the full implementation of the project within the next five years.

“Our economy needs this capital injection to boost productivity and job creation,” Matekane said.

Matekane said the government had to enact three pieces of legislation which were necessary to support the investments that the MCC is making.

The enacted laws are the Labour Code Amendment Bill, the Administration of Estates and Inheritance Bill and the Occupational Safety and Health Bill.

Majara Molupe

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Bank spearheads career expo

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Standard Lesotho Bank will tomorrow host a career expo at the ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre for high school students who will sit for their final exams this year.
The 14th Annual Standard Lesotho Bank Career Expo was launched in Mokhotlong on Monday where the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) welcomed students in areas around the Polihali Dam construction site.

On Tuesday the expo was at the Butha-Buthe Community High School, yesterday it was at Assumption High School in Teya-Teyaneng while today it is in Quthing at Holy Trinity High School.

The five-day nationwide event is dedicated to connecting ambitious Basotho youths with exciting career opportunities.

Standard Lesotho Bank says it’s career expo “is a cornerstone of the bank’s commitment to empowering Basotho youth and shaping the future of Lesotho’s workforce”.

The 2024 edition of the event is the 14th where the bank is now the headline sponsor of this important expo that reaches about over 10 000 students countrywide.

The expo promises to be an even better offering where over 35 institutions of higher learning from Lesotho and South Africa as well as professional bodies will explain different career options to Basotho students.

Standard Lesotho Bank communications manager, Manyathela Kheleli, said students in Mokhotlong did not only learn about different engineering disciplines but got to appreciate engineering in action at Polihali.

He said it was a lifetime experience for students from Mokhotlong, “thanks to the collaboration with LHDA, who are fully responsible for the Polihali leg of the event”.

There were also motivational speakers from different professions in the bank and other selected institutions.

Key influencers in the football fraternity, former Likuena captain and now Corporate Responsibility Manager at Letšeng Diamonds, Tšepo Hlojeng, and former Orlando Pirates dribbling wizard, Steve Lekoelea, are among the influencers that have been invited to address the students.

The event is a sponsorship initiative under Personal and Private Banking that is open to all youths, communities, and individuals, where the bank intends to use this event to drive the new Youth or student Customer Value Proposition and attract high school students to open accounts ahead of their enrolment into tertiary institutions.

The objective of this sponsorship is to first create an environment where future leaders of Lesotho will be nurtured and informed of top career choices that demonstrate various skills requirements for the growth of Lesotho’s economy.

Secondly, the career expo is a clear demonstration of the bank’s intention to put youths at the centre of its initiatives.

This position is shown by the bank’s initiative to not only develop special products for youths, such as the Youth Account but also through several initiatives that promote youth empowerment. These include the bursary scheme and the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project.

“We are more than a bank for our youths, but a good corporate citizen and a partner for the education for Basotho,” Kheleli said.

“We believe that as we grow our youths, they will become assets to this country and by extension, develop into a feeder market for our banking products when they enter the job market,” he said.

The bank has invested M150 000 towards sponsorship of the annual Career Expo.

Staff Reporter

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Ministry launches fresh industrialisation drive

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A new policy to drive industrialisation in Lesotho was launched in Maseru this week.
The Lesotho National Industrialisation Policy 2024–2028 is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Trade.

The ministry says the policy seeks to accelerate economic diversification in the industrial base, enhance productivity and productive capacity for industrialisation and advance domestic and regional value chains for industrialisation.

It also seeks to promote and develop industrial clustering, promote inclusive industrialisation, support entrepreneurship development and strengthen business linkages.
The new policy will also seek to enhance energy efficiency and sustainability, promoting technology adoption and innovation, services-based industrialisation, and stimulating agro-based industrialisation.

This is not the first time Lesotho has launched an industrialisation policy. Previous policies have all failed.

The first attempt was the 2015–2017 industrial policy, whose aim was to accelerate the industrialisation agenda and address key challenges facing the country.

The second one was the 2018–2023 policy, which after its unsuccessful execution during the three years of implementation, the government extended it to the National Strategic Development Plan Strategic Focus (2023/24-2027/28).

The new industrial policy’s target is set to activate implementation on innovation to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of domestic industries, create decent jobs and improve the welfare of Basotho.

Thabo Moleko, the Ministry of Trade Principal Secretary, said the implementation of the new policy is set to deepen economic growth, promote industrialisation and enhance competitiveness.

“The plan includes greater investment in industrial development with the intention to create employment and incomes while building on maintaining the existing industrial trade,” Moleko said.

Mamello Nchake, a consultant for the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA), said the development goals of the industrial policy are set to ensure an achievable inclusiveness and equitable growth as they aim to create sector-led quality jobs for Basotho.

Nchake said the goals are meant to “develop and maintain enabled infrastructure that is critical to the private sectors and also to promote gender equality, environmental and climate risk management”.

“Moreover, the policy (will seek to) harness the collaboration with private sector firms to address common challenges and promote industrialisation,” she said.

The workshop discussed constraints that hindered the implementation of the 2018 – 2023 policy that undermined investment and trade opportunities.

The constraints include access to land for investment, inadequate provision of infrastructure, an outdated and a lack of appropriate regulatory environment, low productive capacity, market size and topological constraints, unstable macroeconomic environment, external factors, and over-dependency of trade preferences.

To address the strategic objectives, the previous industrial policies had proposed tax incentives for industrial development, trade policy and regional integration as the main vehicle for industrialisation and structural transformation.

They had also proposed mechanisms for policy coordination and implementation, institutional alignment and linkages.

However, several key challenges were identified in the implementation of the 2015-2017 industrial policy.

They included limited financial and investment capacity to effectively implement the industrial policy actions.

“Financing instruments are not aligned with the level of development needs of the private sector,” stakeholders heard at the workshop.

They also heard that there is “persistent dependency on few industries that poses risks in the face of global economic uncertainties and ever-changing consumer preferences”.
Another identified problem is limited investment climate that makes it costly for foreign firms to invest in Lesotho.

It was also observed that a shortage of specialised education and skills crucial for growth of industries impact the ability of firms to adopt advanced technologies and improve productivity and the productive capacity.

Stakeholders also heard that there is limited global competitiveness and access to global markets.

Lesotho’s industries, they heard, particularly textiles and garments, face competition from other low-cost manufacturing countries.

The country is also spooked by poor coordination between the implementing agencies due to a lack of a clear implementation framework.

Khahliso ’Molaoa

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