Sandra Idossou is the Managing Director of SHEI and ENZ consulting firm, which specialises in customer service, sales and marketing training and the CEO of The Service Magazine. She is passionately committed to helping companies and organizations to improve their customer centricity.
She had a chat with Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa on customer service in Rwanda.
What sparked your passion for venturing into customer care in Rwanda?
Before coming to Rwanda nine years ago with my Husband, I had been a trainer on Quality/Sales and Marketing and have trained people in 21 African Countries. I have always been passionate about customer service, knowledge sharing and writing.
I came to Rwanda when the Government of Rwanda had decided to embark on this campaign for improved service delivery. That was the right timing for me, to be part in improving the level of customer service and therefore decided to set up a training and consulting company, then later on The Service Magazine. My best quote has always been “Knowledge is Power” so I believe that if we give people the right knowledge, they will be better in whatever they do.
What interests you about customer care?
Customer care is a competitive edge for all service providers. Beyond a product, it is the services around how they are delivered that make the difference. When you give good service to your customers it makes your teams efficient and your customers to become free advertising agents for you. Word of mouth is crucial and it’s only through excellent customer service that brands can be maintained. Through customer service, one touches the emotions of customers and forces one to always aim at delivering quality.
What have been your achievements so far?
One of the achievements is the fact that people actually talk about customer care which was not the case back then. When someone mentions customer care, most people somehow understand the concept and the need of it. Another achievement that I am extremely proud of is how the public nowadays use social media to interact with service providers. The fact that people vote for the best service providers, name or shame some, show that the subject of Customer Service is no more a taboo.
One of the challenges I face as a trainer of service is making service providers understand why they need to train, invest in customer service and move fast. They take too much time in putting in place systems that can facilitate their customer experience even when they understand the need.
Another challenge is that the private sector is still behind compared to the public sector. The Public sector in Rwanda is leading in terms of public regulation and one can see that they understand why and what needs to be done. The private sector is still taking their time in instilling clear and simple service culture in their institutions. Improving customer service requires investment and dedication.
The Service Magazine for example relies solely on advertising which has been very hard to maintain especially if you want to provide quality and professional content. Changing mentality and instilling a service culture in the whole country will take time and support from everyone.
Can you say speed is the best definition of customer success?
Yes. Speed is important but it’s not the only element needed in improving customer care service. We need trained people who know their job. Other systems like ICT are also there to help us improve service. We need to put in place user friendly systems to improve the level of services offered to the clients. Otherwise, how can you justify that in this day and age, we still don’t have all our institutions on social media to address issues raised by citizens/customers?
How can you describe Rwanda’s journey in terms of providing customer service?
What I appreciate about Rwanda is the fact that the Government sees customer service as a necessity in becoming a service-based economy. The Government of Rwanda really tries to improve this area seriously. The journey so far has been good but we need to go much faster. We should put in more action that talking.
With the use of technology rising, how can service providers ensure person to person connections?
Customer service has changed compared to how it used to be ten years ago. The way we used to buy for instance has changed. Today we want to sit in the comfort of our homes and receive services. That is why technology is a tool that can help us improve and we should take advantage of it.
Being a passionate writer, what books do you like to read?
I use my computer a lot and read a lot of educative material on my computer so I download books to read. Apart from that I’m also every curious because I want to understand. I basically never watch television and use every single opportunity to learn new things. Google is my open book, and I am constantly asking myself questions and finding answers from it wherever I am. For me, internet has one of the great inventions of our generation we need to take advantage of in upgrading our knowledge.