The backbone of business is hung heavily on the nature of customer service and delivery. Poor service can harm business, especially with the hospitality sector, and this is an issue a lot of people are complaining about today. A recent assessment by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) exposed some weaknesses in the country’s hospitality sector, some of these included staff grooming and ethics, inadequate skills among others. The New Times had a chat with Pauline Iradukunda, an expert in the hospitality industry, an e-learning facilitator and recruitment officer at Vatel Rwanda, International Hospitality School, who shed more light on certain factors causing this and how firms can address this challenge. What’s your take on the persistent poor service delivery in the country? Some people working in the sector are not well experienced and skilled. Those who train them at times do so without knowing what the person is lacking, and a lot of people working in the hospitality industry have got a lot of theoretical knowledge and less practical skills. Some of them are also working not because they’re passionate, but because it’s the only way to earn a living. Another thing is, they work extra hours yet they are not being paid for that. Most of them need to also work on the attitude and behaviour, learn the discipline which is proper for the industry. For this to happen, there needs to be intervention from RDB to set standards of operation. What about safety and hygiene, how is the industry fairing? Good hygiene is very important. In some places like 5 star hotels, it has been observed but this isn’t always the case with others. Places that have restrooms reserved for employees do not have washrooms or showers yet they need them since they work for long hours. If someone is working for more than 10 hours, while standing and running up and down, they are bound to sweat and hence need to freshen up. There also needs to be proper hygiene check-ups for the people who are going to be in contact with food, some waitresses have artificial nails which can contaminate food. Delay in order delivery is another issue that many have raised. How can this be addressed? Poor communication still characterises our service deliverers, for example when you promise a client that their order will be available in 10 minutes and you see that it is going to exceed, it is better to inform them when it’s not too late. It’s also good for people who are serving to know what is missing in stock, for them to inform customers of what is available and what is not. This can avoid any delays. Other factors that cause delay of meals include, Mise en place (a culinary process in which ingredients are prepared and organised in a restaurant kitchen before cooking) when the customer places an order. Sometimes people who are serving do not have product knowledge; some do not know how the food is cooked and the whole process. Another thing is the language barrier between the customer and waiters, waitresses. Sometimes people don’t understand what the customer ordered; this makes people avail the order a little bit late. On a positive note, a number of measures are being taken to deal with the evident issues regarding these and a number of other challenges. RDB recommended more efforts of engagement with hotel owners or managers to understand their role in improving the services.