Business

Our staff is MegaMart's most important asset -- Azan

BY AL EDWARDS

Friday, January 22, 2010    

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SPEAKING at a special commemorative event held at the Hilton Hotel on Tuesday night to acknowledge long-serving employees of retail chain MegaMart, the company's founder and chairman Gassan Azan said MegaMart's most important asset is its staff.

The company recently celebrated its tenth anniversary and continues to go from strength to strength. "Your staff makes you what you are. Our staff is the most important asset that we possess in our business. The staff of this company has been able to display conviction even in harsh times both personally and businesswise and that's what differentiates them from the rest. Many of you perhaps didn't feel a certain level of job security ten years ago when we started than you do today. There were times when we didn't know whether the company was going to be able to survive or not. I think it is mostly due to your help that we have been able not to just survive but grow despite all the odds being against us," said Azan.

Recalling his formative years, the MegaMart boss said that he did not hail from the monied or privileged set and never envisaged heading a company like MegaMart. Back then he would have been content to settle for simply making a basic living.

Nation building

"But at some point you start to change your outlook on life and say this is something that can really happen, and that is something called conviction. Then you start to go beyond monetary concerns because you then start to consider notions such as nation building. I want to urge all my employees, this is where you want to take yourself and your career -- towards nation building, towards building a better Jamaica. Now we didn't start out with that in mind but it has evolved which comes with a certain maturity."

He commended the mobile telephone company Digicel which also began operations in Jamaica nearly ten years ago for the emphasis it places on its staff and attention to customer service. He noted that as an entity it has contributed the single largest donation to the relief effort for earthquake-struck Haiti.

Admiring Digicel

"Digicel is a company that I admire for its nation-building efforts and its ability to go beyond monetary concerns. We as Jamaicans should be proud to have a company like Digicel here in Jamaica," declared Gassan Azan.

Turning his attention to the deleterious state of the Jamaican economy, the chairman and CEO of MegaMart said: "But even as we celebrate our successes and show our appreciation to our outstanding workers, we are only too conscious of the difficulties that would hamper MegaMart's growth if the national economy continues to decline. The national debt has now reached J$1.3 trillion and the country cannot service it at the current level of revenues. It is against this background that I want to recognise the initiative announced by the prime minister to manage our debt more efficiently. This is a bold step that deserves our support. All Jamaicans are being asked to make sacrifices by paying more taxes, by paying increased prices and earning less interest. This is our chance to rectify decades of poor fiscal management."

But while the government is calling on the people of Jamaica to forbear and swallow this bitter pill, Azan expects it in turn to manage the economy more effectively and cease spending what the country does''t earn.

Connecting human resources with customer service is vital -- Linehan

The special guest speaker at the event, CEO of Digicel Jamaica, Mark Linehan stressed, the importance for companies to create synergies with quality customer care and human resources. He went on to add that this is key to sustainable profit building in a shrinking world economy. Before taking up the post in Jamaica, Linehan served stints in St, Vincent, French Guiana, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, thus giving him a unique perspective of the company's operations and business practices.

"For any business to succeed in today's world there has to be a synergy between the firm's human resources and how it provides services to its customers. If the staff do not understand the needs of the customer how are they to deliver the products and services to that customer? Understanding your customers and delivering on their needs leads to loyal customers which ties backs to the financial objectives of the company.It is as simple as that!"

But at the same time he made it clear that customers have options, therefore the level of customer service a business provides helps to differentiate it from that of its competitors.

The importance of customer service

"At Digicel we have a simple equation to attract and retain customers. We ensure that we consistently provide our customers with the best service, the best network and the best value.

"If we give our customers the best experience they will not only stay with us, they will become natural advocates of us and continue to use our products and services. But this cannot just be a one-off. We have to give them the best customer experience every time."

Linehan went on to say that customer service is entwined through every fibre of Digicel's operations and that the company has a duty to ensure that the customer experience with its products and services is the very best available. The way it does so is through its retail offerings, advertising, sponsorships, its customer care department and the Digicel Foundation.

"Delivering the best customer experience is paramount to building goodwill, brand identity and securing repeat customers. Everything we do goes back to our customer-centric approach," reiterated Linehan.

MegaMart revolutionised the retail shopping experience in Jamaica

Taking a look at MegaMart, the Digicel boss sees a company that has revolutionised retail shopping by successfully redefining a one-dimensional retail culture in Jamaica to a multifaceted one-stop shopping experience.

"MegaMart started with one store in Portmore in 1999, opened another in Kingston in 2003 and in 2007 opened yet another, this time in Montego Bay. You have to ensure that one is competing effectively in every area of one's business. Now more than ever it is important that MegaMart maintains its high standard retail shopping experience in Jamaica," said the University College of Dublin graduate.

For companies in general, to survive the current economic conditions, Linehan pointed out, they must realise that customers want even more attention, greater quality and better value for money. He noted that indeed, they have become more discerning in their spending habits as they feel the pinch. This means that businesses have to work even harder not only to keep existing customers but to gain new ones.

"The key to success lies in not only having a good product but also being able to provide the customer with the level of service they desire whether in the stores or in the after-sales department. The importance of good customer service is undeniable. Customers are your company because without customers you have no revenue, hence no business. It is important to note that we would have no customers if it wasn't for our staff. The best ambassadors for your products and services are your staff members," said Linehan.

He went on to say that Digicel places great stock in customer service and monitors it by constant research, focus groups and its customer care department, which is the main source of feedback from its customers. He said it was vital that Digicel's staff understand the needs of its customers so that they can deliver on the customers' needs and wants. As the largest mobile telecommunications provider in Jamaica with two million customers and with a total of 10 million customers across 32 markets, being able to consistently deliver on a promise of best service, best network and best value to all its customers is very important to Digicel.

"In Jamaica the first thing we did was to roll out a network that covered every nook and cranny in the country. Today we have over 1,200 cell sites servicing two million customers. In every market in which we operate, we become part of the fabric of that society. As customers become part of our daily lives, we become a part of their lives. Giving back to our customers has become second nature to us. Through our sponsorships, community initiatives and value offerings we deliver on our promise of best value for our customers. Our behaviour as a company through our staff instills a belief in our customers which leads to a strong loyalty to the Digicel brand which in turn leads to the financial objectives of the company," said the Digicel Jamaica CEO.

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