When you empower your customer facing staff you invariably increase sales, much as selling is not explicitly their docket. Let me share a story with lessons learnt from it, to illustrate this.

With the new KRA TIMS Electronic Tax register in place, business owners are intent on exercising tax efficiency, that is, managing their taxes. For this reason, anywhere they can get an ETR receipt that will help reduce their VAT payment burden, they are keen to exploit it. With the increase in VAT on fuel, one such place is at the petrol station.

Empower customer facing staff

But first. Let me explain the problem. The problem is that the new system increases friction in the purchase experience for those that need an ETR. The customer must have his company PIN at the ready and the attendant must key in all 11 9 digits and 2 letters of the alphabet, into the machine before it prints it. It does not help that the characters are not in sequence like a calculator. Now, to remove the friction from the purchase experience, a fuel station I love came up with an ingenious plan. (I’ll admit that many times I’ll delay fueling just so that I get served there because of this ingenuity).

Anyway, almost immediately, the rules came into effect, they must have educated and trained their pump attendants on the goings-on. They must also have encouraged feedback and revised their processes in favour of the customer, to accommodate the changes. This empowerment of customer facing staff is not to be taken for granted. To date, many pump attendants are either clueless on the tax matter or get irritated at the ‘extra work’ it calls for.

Read: Customer facing staff should change their attitude to selling and advance their career

empower customer facing staff

Exercise Kaizen. Never ending improvement

So, the pump attendant was not surprised when I asked, “Will I get an ETR?” Yes, of course. Let me have your PIN. I gave him. A few minutes later after disappearing into an office he reappeared with the electronic tax receipt. I was delighted. I was further delighted when he advised thus: “Next time you come, just say the company name as we now have its PIN on record. I did so, and it worked. WOW! But about a month later when I returned and gave the company name, the attendant went into the office and came back saying, “Hiyo hakuna.” (We don’t have that on record). “What do you mean you don’t?” I irritatingly responded. “I was here two weeks ago and you did. Anyway, here’s the PIN number again.” (And I had to go to my phone to retrieve it. Arrgh!)

Simplifying customers life is a sales tool in itself

He disappeared into the office and returned with the ETR and a beaming smile. “You were right. It was there, sorry. The problem is that there are so many names now, that I couldn’t see it. Next time you come just say number 16.” Irritation turned into another WOW! moment. That was back in April and to date all I say is 16 and the ETR is issued almost by magic. It gets better. The book with the growing list of customers needing ETR, is kept in the open within easy access of the fuel attendants. It’s no longer kept in an office. The attendant explained: “We suggested to the boss, and he agreed, that not only was it unnecessary, it was frustrating customers that came when the office was not open.” WOW!

In conclusion. By empowering their customer facing staff and simplifying the customer experience, they not only got referrals (as I’m now doing), they heightened customer retention and generally increased sales. Such are the benefits in empowering customer service staff. Keep it up Vivo Wilson Airport. Others may be doing it now but copying is one thing; sustaining and continually improving the customer experience, via empowering customer facing staff, is another.


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