Staff Profiles - Catherine Nyambok and Jackline Mabia: The Unsung Heroines behind USIU-Africas stellar customer service

By John Sande

“Thank you for calling USIU-Africa. Catherine speaking, how can I kindly assist you?” “This is USIU-Africa, my name is Jackie. How can I be of assistance?”

These are the voices one interacts with when they call the USIU-Africa Main Line. Catherine Nyambok and Jackline Mabia, the duo behind USIU-Africa’s Customer Care Office, - located at the Administration Building, adjacent to the Admissions Office, - are the first point of contact for inquiries, assistance, walk-in visitors and general support. I sat with Catherine and Jackline, who shared a glimpse of their day to day experiences at the workplace.

A Typical Day in the Office
As the day breaks, the duo is ready to hit the ground running. Mornings are typically a flurry of activity, with students, faculty, and staff eager to kickstart their day. The phones light up with calls ranging from event inquiries, admissions questions, to faculty office contacts, and they have to ensure accurate and up-to-date responses to these. For the two, their key task is to handle these calls promptly and (re)direct them to the appropriate departments or individuals.

Throughout the day, the duo manages a multitude of information and act as a bridge, connecting people across the institution. They handle requests for interdepartmental communications, providing important messages and ensuring seamless connectivity within the university community. This role is crucial in maintaining a smooth flow of information and operations within the institution. However, this does not always go as hoped.

“We are sometimes caught flat-footed when clients walk in or call, inquiring about an event happening on campus, yet we are not aware. It is even more humiliating and embarrassing when a total stranger, - an external client is the one updating us of the happenings on campus,” they note.

Being part of the Admissions Office, Catherine and Jackline also engage in Admissions recruitment and outreach programs where they visit schools to share information about the university, process and requirements of applying and joining the university as well as the various degree programs offered and their career options. They also receive applications via email and walk-in clients, confirm applications documents and advice prospective applicants on the best career option based on high school performance.

As the day winds down, they use this time to prepare for the next day, ensuring that equipment is in order, messages are relayed to the appropriate departments, and everything is set for another day of being USIU-Africa’s communication lifeline. As they sign off, they forward all calls to the Hostel Department who handle evening and overnight calls.

What it takes to be a Customer Care/Service Executive
Becoming a customer care executive requires a combination of skills, qualities, and training to excel in this role. Here's what Catherine and Jackline share as to what it takes to be a successful in their role:
• Communication Skills: Effective verbal and written communication skills are vital as one must be able to articulate information clearly, listen actively, and respond appropriately.

“With the university becoming more inclusive, it is paramount that we incorporate sign language to be able to communicate with persons with disability. I am glad that we are scheduled to be trained in the same, and this will enhance our ability to communicate with our prospective clients”, said Catherine.

• Empathy, Patience Emotional Intelligence and Conflict Resolution:

“We sometimes encounter and deal with frustrated or upset customers who come out explosive, irritated and combative. We have learnt that patience is key to remaining calm and professional while working through issues, and with such clients. Empathizing with customers and understanding their concerns is essential as this can diffuse tense situations and build trust. Should tactical and diplomatic conflict resolution mechanism fail and the situation goes overboard, we escalate that same to our supervisor,” Jackline said.

• Problem-Solving Skills:

“We encounter a variety of customer issues, and the ability to analyze these problems and find solutions is crucial to making a happy client. Part of this solving Being resourceful and creative in resolving customer concerns is valuable.

• Product/Service Knowledge: As the first contact point to the university, a thorough understanding and knowledge of the university and its services is critical in making a lasting first impression on callers and visitors.

• Time Management and Multitasking: Efficiently managing time to handle multiple customer inquiries or tasks is essential. This sometimes involves managing multiple tasks simultaneously, such as answering phone calls, responding to emails, and resolving customer issues.

• Continuous Learning: With the advent of AI, and smart PABXs, the customer service landscape is constantly evolving. However, being open to learning and adapting to new techniques and technologies is crucial to enhancing the service to our clients.

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