Do we understand customer service ?

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees “who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest”.

Some have even established schools purposely for training people in customer service and yet we do not see the impact.

Corporate institutions are also doing their best to give good customer service training to their employees but we are still behind.

Customer service is lacking in Rwanda and Africa as a whole.

I have been to a number of places in Rwanda, for instance with good customer service .The staff are fantastic but at the same time, I have been to many places too where I was disappointed not even because of the staff, but the company , the brand .You are always surprised when you receive poor service from big companies. It shouldn’t happen at all. I don’t expect it. But it does happen a lot.


Lack of understanding. The truth of the matter is that most people do not really understand what customer service is. That is why we are struggling .You need a proper understanding of something to be able to execute it well. Otherwise you will be going back and forth till kingdom come.

I recently asked an individual what they think customer service is and she said, “As for customers you need to have patience, you need to talk to them nicely even when they are angry. Just be calm.”

She was right.

Customer service is not just theory but practice.

It is a fact that big companies are even worse in customer service. Why? The answer is not far-fetched.

They do not understand customer service. It is not all about academic qualifications. That is why you find some managers, supervisors and their superiors getting it wrong.

Lack of training. Companies do not train their staff well. If you do not train your staff well, they will definitely perform poorly .The service level will be poor. Do not accept mediocre service.

Our Culture. We like to take things for granted in Africa. We blame our culture. This is Africa. We are not abroad; hence, we do not care. We think that only Europeans and Americans should give good service, forgetting globalisation is catching up with us .We think a smile is a white man’s trait therefore we do not need to smile when we serve people.

Many people talk politely about their products and services on radio or television. But meet them in their offices, shops and see how they will receive or treat you. They will be on phone or chatting on WhatsApp.

Lack of enforcement. Companies spend a lot of money training their staff but do not monitor them to put into practice what they got from the training. No evaluation at all. And it goes on and on every year.

How should it be done?

Top to bottom approach. Customer service must start from the top; from the managing director to his or her subordinates, down to the janitor. When you leave it in the hands of a few people, you may not get it right.

Everybody must be involved including shareholders.

Every managing director should be a customer service agent. We should not see customer service as a job for those at the call centres, customer service desks, or a few people.

Do you know how your cleaners, security guards, warehouse staff treat your customers? That is the reason why all your staff, including the security guard, should be properly trained.

Customer service should not be left in the hands of a few people we think can handle customers very well. A cleaner or security guard can mess it up.

Bad customer service will make you lose more clients instead of gaining more. If the above is practiced quite well, the institution taking that initiative will build a good public image and in turn, acquire an increase in clients because they know they won’t be disappointed.