Customer service is an area full of buzzwords and jargon – putting the concept at the heart of the business pays dividends.
By Mandy de Waal – Copyright Brainstorm & AccTech Systems.
Photo credit: Suzanne Gell, Mariette Landman
It’s a business fundamental, one often overlooked where the pursuit of profit drives companies in a head long rush to deliver to shareholders. To create happy customers you’ve got to have happy employees. Modern capitalism however has created a church of the shareholder instead of putting employees and customers at the top of the pyramid.
“It’s not a strategy or a value or our mission. It’s who we are,” says Morne Swanepoel, co-owner of AccTech Systems and chief operating officer. “We sell software, but this is something that we can’t do without people. We are in the people business, so one of the biggest operational issues for us is to ensure that the people who work for and with us are happy, engaged and involved. Everything else flows from that.”
Happy employees = happy customers
Treating employees the same way as it treats its customers has put AccTech on the fast track to providing excellent services. “Passion isn’t coerced, rather it’s a by-product of caring and committing to employees who reciprocate by caring for your business,” says Swanepoel.
It appears that AccTech intuitively understands this circle of influence. “We don’t sell boxes, we sell solutions and because of this people are AccTech’s biggest asset and we go out of our way to ensure we create an environment that they can grow in. Because of this we have very low staff turn over and are able to foster deep institutional experience,” says Swanepoel.
The result has delivered a much awarded company with AccTech crowned the number one Softline Accpac business partner on the African continent for the fourth consecutive year, and claiming no less than thirteen awards at the 2008 Insights Partner Conference hosted earlier this year by Softline.
“It is a business fundamental – we foster a culture whereby our people understand that the customer pays our salaries. It’s as simple as that. By looking after our employees we have created an ethos where we’ve become fanatical about client service and the customer really is king,” states Swanepoel. “Then we build on this by gearing every aspect of our business to deliver on customer satisfaction. We have segmented our business according to customer needs, sectors and stages. Measuring, interrogating and improving customer service is an ongoing effort. Complacency can be a real killer in the software industry on long projects. Ensuring we have an objective assessment of project deliverables, high level internal stakeholders who oversee client service, and the technology to track, report on and escalate customer issues has been crucial to our growth.”
A key strategy in delivering to customer expectation has been the creation of vertical project and industry teams within AccTech. “We have created pockets of deep experience in solution areas like CRM and retail software, as well as in industry segments such as mining, hotel and leisure, and government,” says Swanepoel. “This is crucial because our differentiator isn’t the software per se, rather the intellectual property that is applied when solutions are delivered.”
Understanding the business
Dharini Raidoo, AccTech’s director of services adds: “Generic software offers sound value but our real competitive edge is understanding the customer’s industry, how to deploy and configure the software for a particular vertical. That’s the challenge and where the real value lies, and that is what AccTech does particularly well.
“If you start talking about mining, the terminology that a mining engineer uses is completely alien to someone who is a CRM business analyst. However, we know the industries, from their terminology to the business processes to their unique challenges and business issues. We have experts in the area that can quickly configure the software we sell because they understand the industry right to the very language it speaks. This accelerates the solution’s deployment,” says Raidoo.
According to Raidoo what makes the company different is that it consciously aims to shorten the implementation cycle, avoid project fatigue and deliver as quickly as possible. “We create an environment where ending projects is a big deal, and we have an after-implementation team that moves in to assess customer service, delivery on expectations and goals achieved,” says Raidoo. “Not only does this become a major milestone for our consultants but with the technology landscape changing so dramatically it gives us insight into customer needs and enables us to adapt our business and sharpen delivery so that we can work on becoming better and better at what we do the whole time.”
In a down-turned economy where business is seeking greater value and a better return on investment from ERP providers, this tack is paying off for AccTech. Not only is the company winning awards but is enjoying solid year on year growth by retaining customers whilst adding new customers in the verticals it is proficient in.