Friday, 9 April 2010

Mexican Customer Service and using employees right

I recently spent a couple of weeks in Mexico, predominantly in Mexico City. This urban sprawl of 8,000 sq. km and 21 million inhabitants is immense in every respect. An extremely low daily minimum wage of around £3 has translated into an ability to afford a high level of employees, which in turn has meant a high level of customer service.

I saw this translated into action in a couple of different instances, one great another not so:
The first was in a regular trip to a Pemex petrol station. Pemex is the state-owned monopoly supplier of petrol to the Mexican consumer. Obviously, being a monopoly comes with its own rules about what service you wish to give. Normally, it vies on the side of "less is better, because what choice do you have". Yet here, two gas station attendants, smartly dressed in overalls and shirt and tie underneath, filled the car, cleaned all the windows and very quickly checked the oil. The forecourt was immaculate, service was with a smile, and we were politely waved away at the end. Evidently, there was a tip involved, which all parties knew only too well. Yet, it served a purpose of taking an activity that I could have done myself and felt nothing for the brand in question to one where I would like to go out of my way against to visit if there were a competitive marketplace. Horses for courses, but I'd happily pay a little extra for a little extra service.

The second was at Telmex. A leading telecommunications company, Telmex also has a big retail outlet footprint. For a European it was incredible to see how many outlets there were within a small area, which must have led to cannibalisation between stores, but I imagine still important in terms of market share.
My experience was to look to buy a local pay as you go SIM card for a mobile for my stay there. The process took me to four different customer service attendants:

- one on the initial welcome desk to take my query and direct me to a desk
- one to talk to me and give me a card
- one in a separate booth (and queue) to take payment
- another to put the SIM card and ensure all was working.

I counted over 25 customer facing employees in the average sized branch. Here, a large amount of staff had translated into inefficient, non-customer centric processes, elongating my visit without a value add. Frustation began to set in towards the end of a 45 minute activity and didn't leave me with a good brand experience.

I appreciate that culturally I was in a country where what consumers value may be very different from a Londoner. Someone constantly pushed for time may seek efficiency at all costs whereas a Mexican may prefer to take time but ensure it's done right.

But in summary, it reminded me that having a labour cost that permits a large amount of customer interaction can be great for transforming a dull, commoditised process into a USP. Yet many hands don't always make light work. Organisations should look to ensure that customers are always advantaged through whatever processes it translates into.

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