Thursday 14 December 2006

Who are the champions?

Many centuries ago there were champions. Real champions. Their job was to fight on behalf of Kings and Queens who, because they were royalty, were themselves only allowed to fight their equals. They were far too important to fight their own fights so they used to hire people to do it for them.

Now of course being sensible, if somewhat inbred, these Kings and Queens would seek out the roughest, toughest, most battle-hardened combat specialists most likely to beat off the competition. These champions were seen as heroes in the days when fighting prowess meant something. Thankfully we’ve moved on since then but the legacy of these champions remains with us in our language and also in things like sport. The Zebras are our champions when they take on teams from other countries on our behalf. Whether they win or lose they remain our champions in the original sense.

Now of course the word has now changed it’s meaning but I think it is useful to remember it’s origin.

And that’s where I think that there are parallels between these champions and the customer-service industry. The service champions we at Consumer Watchdog identify are very much like the champions of history. They are the ones that aren’t afraid to go into battle on behalf of their employer and against their competitors. They fight, although obviously not in the old-fashioned sense, to win, to beat their competitor and to bring glory and riches to those that they fight for. They aren’t armed with swords, battleaxes and bows and arrows any more but with much more complicated weapons. Our champions go into battle with good (or at the very least well-presented) products, policies that are customer friendly and with the occasional special treat for consumers.

OK, that is about as far as I can stretch the analogy. One big difference is that these days service champions can move from company to company. In fact a series of career moves is probably a sign that someone is pretty good at it. Sooner or later anyone doing a great job servicing customers will be recognised by other companies and head-hunted (another term with a violent history).

Normally when “head-hunting” is mentioned we think of CEOs and MDs but it’s not always the case. People can be head-hunted at all levels. In fact we were privileged to help bring about one of these several months ago.

In April this year we hosted the first Consumer Watchdog Birthday Party. We invited the 150 service champions we had celebrated in our first year to the Gaborone International Convention Centre to be celebrated in front of the press, their managers and the nation. Our guest of honour was the President who helped us to recognise the achievement of our service champions (see our website for pictures).

One of the champions worked at a well-known fast-food outlet, serving customers on the front line (yet another military term). Just a few minutes after getting his prize from the President he was approached by a very senior manager from a bank who offered him a job on the spot. Our champion doubled his salary instantly and now works in customer service helping the bank improve it’s relationship with it’s customers.

The bank manager didn’t care that the young man in question had never worked in a bank before. He didn’t care that our champion was unqualified to be an actual banker. Instead he saw that he was perfectly qualified to work in customer care.

What he understood is that champions are champions, regardless of who they fight for. Fighting skills are universal, whether you are serving fast food or helping customers in a bank. The qualities needed are actually quite simple but most importantly of all they are the same as those needed for the old fighting champions. Huge amounts of energy, excellent skills with the weapons available and most of all a passion to be the best, to win.

It also takes an understanding that there is nothing wrong with seeing business as like warfare. Some people seem to think that there is something morally reprehensible about competing, about taking on the competition and doing your level best to beat them. However the bizarre thing is that these same people are often avid sports fans. There are so many parallels between sport, warfare and business. All are about competition, victory and defeat. Can you imagine a boxing match with only one boxer? A football final with only one side? The reason football teams practice over and over again is not just to make them good at the game, it’s to make them better than the other side. Why can’t we see business as the same?

Lastly customers, like football fans, benefit when there is vigorous competition. We all want to see an exciting game involving two well-matched sides each doing their best to win. Same in business!

Christmas prizes

We have Christmas presents to give away! Barloworld have donated several thousand Pula’s worth of merchandise, from sweatshirts to baseball caps, for us to give away to nominated service champions. Barloworld also tell us that if a winner has a car from them they can use the value of the prize towards a service or they will knock double the value of the prize off the price of a new car!

So tell us, who do you think deserves to spend Christmas looking like a walking, talking advertisement for Volvo, Volkswagen, Audi, Ford or Jaguar? Let us know and there is still just enough time to give them an early Christmas treat.

This week’s stars!

  • All the staff at Vee’s Video at Molapo Crossing for being friendly, helpful and for service above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Moses from Lengaleng Bottle Store in Tlokweng for always smiling.
  • Barloworld for their generosity!

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