Enterprise IT services provider Aptronics is one of South Africa's leading black-empowered IT solutions and services organisations, thanks to its founder’s approach to customer service.
Anil ‘Apie’ Pema launched Aptronics from a garage almost 23 years ago. He says he grew the business on a foundation of excellent customer service. We asked him how he grew a reputation for being a respected and trusted adviser to big South African businesses.
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You have attributed Aptronics’ non-stop growth to the quality of service you promise your customers. Explain why.
We rate our success not on the numbers, but on customer perception. Customer service is our differentiator. The value and success of the company is determined by our reputation for excellence. In todays’ world, customers’ opinion signals whether you are on track or not.
Your main market is corporate. Why did you focus on that?
I have always been driven by a challenge. It doesn’t come any bigger than taking Aptronics from inception, as a provider of services at the desktop level, through to delivering on mission critical solutions inside corporate data centres.
Aptronics was started two decades ago and has become one of South Africa’s pre-eminent ICT providers. One of my primary challenges is to provide sustainable employment for the staff in an environment that requires the development and deployment of scarce skills.
How do you define customer service?
We see customer service is core to our business. It can mean the difference between winning and losing. As such there is a deep understanding ingrained into every individual of the importance of meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
That means a big investment in training, not only sales and technical but also soft skills. Our approach to customer engagement is based on listening and understanding their requirements to provide real business value.
What does it mean to place the customer ‘at the heart of the business?’
Simply, we truly believe providing an exceptional customer experience. In today’s world, where the competition is intense and where margins are narrow, that is the only way to boost profits.
When a project is rolled out, we use the customer’s desired outcomes as our strategic guide. Our products and services are merely the tools we use to get the best results for the customer.
Read more on Aptronics here.
Does that customer service level not come at a price to your business?
Yes, there is an extra cost involved in keeping the teams aligned to our focus on customer satisfaction. It’s a cost worth bearing though. We see it as an investment.
Keep in mind that it’s not just about business and technical skills. We invest a lot of time in looking for the right people. Our talent acquisition team actively seeks out individuals that best fit the Aptronics customer-centric culture.
Is there a recipe for customer service excellence?
To get it right, listen to the customer, understand their expectations, and deliver accordingly. My recommendation is to exceed expectations just enough to be outstanding, without compromising your own business.
Related: How to keep customers coming back and repurchasing: Developing a back-end
Do you have any words of advice on how to treat the customer?
When you become a trusted advisor, you build a relationship with your customer that leads to dependency. Because your customers learn to trust, rely on you to give the best advice, and recognise you as an integral part of their business success, you are far more likely to retain them into the future.
For more information, visit www.aptronics.co.za