By M.Afzal Janjua
Deputy General Manager, State Life
Sep 27 - Oct 03, 1999
Ever head of a business
organization which says "We don't care for the customer"? In fact no one would
say so but very few really provide real good customer service. Large organizations
specially those in the service sector need very elaborate and well chalked out customer
care programmes, due to the size of their clientele and a variety of needs to be met. This
applies more to life insurance organizations where each client has special needs and
specific plans to cover them.
First and foremost factor in Customer Care Programme, is the Corporate
Culture. A culture built around the concept "Customer is the king" helps to
build the programme. Such a culture by virtue of its very existence ensures customer
satisfaction to a great extent. On the other hand absence of such a culture will defeat
all formally announced programmes to show we care'. Such programmes without
supporting cultures will hardly achieve worth while results. These in fact will create
false hopes and the customer who does not find satisfaction of his needs, will instead by
So an organization serious about serving its customers must, first of
all set up a good culture. The staff must think "Customer First". This attitude
can be developed through training, supervision and motivation. Staff members or executives
who are not customer focused are likely to jeopardise the programme and should be employed
in jobs having no or indirect exposure to customer service.
A customer profile must be prepared, as it helps a lot in knowing your
customers, their needs, getting close to them and satisfying their needs. Such a profile
should not be limited to external customers only but anybody who uses the output of a
function or work should be treated a customer e.g. for Personnel Division of a company's,
people in the entire organization are customers. If they are dissatisfied, the external
customers suffer eventually as it will affect the working conditions.
A customer profile includes gender, age, marital status, income level,
occupation, and life style etc. Such a profile can be prepared through market research
that uses methods like questionnaires, focus group discussions, customer audit, and
attitude surveys etc. While market research work done by professional researchers is
helpful an organization's own people can do it much better. It is the focus that matters,
besides access to the needed information and knowing its reliability.
For setting up a really effective Customer Care Programme, sincere
commitment of the top management is important. Some other factors, like good quality sales
literature, its clarity, simple buying/ordering procedures, properly quoted prices without
hidden extra charges, clear invoicing, prompt delivery of products and good after sales
service also provide support.
Even with the best possible after sale service, complaints cannot be
eliminated altogether. Always look at the complaints patiently, rather welcome them as an
opportunity to improve. Giving immediate attention, prompt and sincere feed back to the
customers after attending to their need can convert unhappy customers into good advocates
for your company.
In the beginning, we had talked about the corporate culture. Such
culture will be built, through training the people and rewarding good performance, by
employees. It is most important that service is actually provided and not simply talked
about or claimed.
Customer Care for a Life Insurance Company or Corporation is of vital
importance. It is so because the customer has to be provided service for two or three
decades: sometime even longer. The services includes, age admission, keeping current
postal address for contact, issuance of premium due notices, receipts, bonus certificates
and supplying all needed information. We at State Life are fully alive to these needs and
have a policyholders service unit at each of our 26 Zones and a Division at Principal
Office to ensure that all these units perform well. Still State Life, is always finding
the need and scope for improvement to provide the best possible service to around two