South Africa Spotlight: How we deliver excellent customer service – a Q&A with Zaid Kamaldien
When it comes to delivering excellent customer service, the entire business has to embrace it, starting at the top. That’s why, at Sigma Connected, we’re big believers in keeping the customer at the heart of everything you do — no matter what seniority your role is.
We spoke to Zaid Kamaldien, one of our Head of Operations in our South African operation, to learn about how he encourages his department to empathise with customers and deliver the best service possible.
Read on to find out what a typical day looks like for Zaid, how he trains his team, and what makes Cape Town the perfect place to find knowledgeable and empathetic customer service advisors.
Introducing Zaid Kamaldien, Head of Operations for Collections
Zaid is based in Cape Town and has over 15 years experience in the customer service industry, having worked for three of the country’s major BPOs (Business Process Outsourcing). Although Sigma Connected is a relatively young company in South Africa, having been established 13 years ago, Zaid could see its potential and has been part of the team for almost two years. He comments:
“The reason I moved to Sigma Connected is simply because of the culture. The way we do things over here; it’s very different to any other BPO.”
What does a typical day look like for you?
Zaid points out that he has three main priorities for each day that help him to put everything into perspective:
“Number one is people. Number two is my clients and then number three is the internal stakeholders within Sigma.
“For people development — or people investment — I consider how we can grow our staff. All of our staff are multi-skilled, so we ensure they have all the necessary knowledge to deal with customers on an end-to-end basis. That approach makes them an asset to the client.
“For clients, I look at what we’re producing and where the opportunities are for improvement. I then share that with the four clients I’m currently managing on a daily basis.
“Then, internally, I look at Sigma’s processes. How we can be better, how we can package ourselves. I look at areas like employee value proposition and ask myself ‘how do we become the employer of choice?’.”
What training do you provide your team with?
Zaid believes you get out what you put in, so it’s vital to invest in employee training and career progression:
“We recently started something called ‘Siggy School’, which is where we take our top performing advisors and give them the opportunity to learn and grow into leadership positions. Members of the management team actually volunteer and invest personal time into this project because we’re so passionate about upskilling the team internally.”
And the proof is in the pudding:
“If we look at performance, we’re one of the only BPOs where our scorecards are green across multiple campaigns. Therefore, we know that our people are doing the right thing for our clients’ customers and so we need to re-invest in them to help them develop and grow.”
How do you encourage your team to deliver excellent customer service?
“There’s a saying within the BPO industry in Cape Town: ‘coach up or coach out’. But, that’s not something that we believe in at Sigma. We ‘coach up or develop and promote you for the next role’. We want to retain our staff, so we have a couple of different programmes to encourage them.
“In addition to Siggy School, we’re also working on something called ‘Step Up’, which is where we will provide a full training course to an agent and assign a mentor who is two or three levels above them. The mentor guides the trainee throughout their time on the course and helps them to progress their career.”
However, Zaid also notes that such encouragement should begin on the very first day a new person joins the team:
“It’s about the very first step that an individual takes into Sigma. That initial interaction is where we make the biggest impression. So, from a leadership perspective, it’s important to meet everyone — we’ll go down to their training groups, introduce ourselves, and welcome them.
“For everyone in the business, it’s also about understanding who the customer is. For me, it’s my direct reports. So, I need to think about what kind of customer service I’m giving to them. I have an open door policy and — if someone needs me — I stop what I’m doing and pay full attention to that person.
“Because of that policy, people are comfortable walking into my office and having conversations with me. Having such an open working environment means that staff can be honest. But, at the same time, I can have high expectations surrounding their performance.
“We work in partnership — a title is just a title. As a leader, I am here to serve my team and, in turn, they serve our clients’ customers.”
What is it about Cape Town that produces great customer service advisors?
There’s a lot more to Cape Town than its breathtaking scenery. In fact, the city is also the perfect place to find skilled customer service advisors who truly care about their customers’ needs:
“From a historical perspective, Cape Town has a very rich history and we’re multicultural. We’re a third world nation and we’ve also come from a long line of struggles. We fight for freedom. So, the reason why this is a great country to outsource to is that we have the right culture — our people are naturally empathetic.”
It’s no secret that empathy is a key ingredient for any business to deliver excellent customer service. Click here to learn more about how your team can professionally deal with sensitive situations.
But, in addition to empathy, Zaid notes that it’s Cape Town’s impressive infrastructure that attracts great new talent to the city:
“Cape Town as a city is also growing lots of skill sets and Sigma forms a big part of that. Very recently, we were recognised by the President of South Africa for our investment in employing young people. We recruit people, educate them and bring them into a corporate environment, assisting them with their career growth along the way.”
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