Customer care is the most crucial element of an organisation or a company. Good customer care generates more marketing and sales opportunities. However, very often, customers are not treated with the best care which can be detrimental for a companys ability to attain excellence. A recent survey by Rwanda Development Board (RBD) showed that there are still some weaknesses in service delivery in some sectors. Yet, it remains crucial how employees interact with clients before and after rendering services, for it speaks a lot about a company’s brand. In an exclusive interview with The New Times, Mireille Karera, Founder and Chairwoman of the Board at KORA Coaching Group- which trains and certifies coaches, shares solution-based ideas on how customer care and service delivery can be improved. Excerpts: What is the cost of poor customer care? Well, there is no business without clients. So, if you dont listen to clients, you wont have clients. That means you wont exist for a very long time. And clients are the very reason your business exists, whoever you serve should be listened to, the golden rule here is to make sure that the client is put first. What is the role of leaders in addressing quality of service in organisations? It is certainly a central role to put customers first, and specifically, when it comes to CEOs. They are mandated by boards of directors to lay out and also execute the vision, mission and mandate of the organisation. Therefore, they have delegated powers by the board to run operations so that customers are better served. I would say if you are a CEO out there, you should make customer care your number one focus. And by the customer, we mean internal customers, your employees, as well as the external customers, which are the people who pay for your goods and services. When it comes to addressing company challenges, at times, employees’ voices are not considered. How can that be addressed? I am very much aware of cases like that and I believe that in organisations where staff or people within the organisation do not feel that their ideas are advanced in order for them to deliver better, it is an issue of the corporate culture. So there needs to be systems in place where there is an inclusive corporate culture, where every employee from the top to bottom should really have that opportunity to share solutions because they interact with customers. Any three tips to offer CEOs to fix their customer service? The first one is that everything starts with you and ends with you. Personal leadership takes ownership of your role wherever you are, whichever department you are in. And the second one is that you have to have that learning culture, and equip yourself with your product or service knowledge. And the third one is accountability; once again, because it all starts with you, but accountability this time with evaluation. There has to be a way for collectively or individually evaluating periodically how well you are doing, how you are positioning yourself versus your peers in the same industry, versus peers in the continental area or globally. Evaluation, I believe, will be a very good thing that we should consider as part of accountability. Share your experience with poor service and what your reaction was as a person who understands business? There is this one place that I used to go to, I saw that the facilities had a way to their service that customers were not benefiting to the fullest. So what I did was report the issue, not just as a client but also as a coach. I had to also provide suggestions of how to improve the situation. So everyone that gets bad customer care, should in fact, not just complain, but also suggest ways it can change. What’s behind the perception of foreigners receiving better services than locals? I assume the ones offering services believe that internationals have deeper ‘pockets’ than the locals. If the perception is true, then I would recommend anyone that does that to make sure that they value people at the same level because I wouldn’t want to be treated as a second-class citizen. The golden rule, once again-do unto others, as you will have them do to you. How can businesses use technology to elevate the quality of service? Technology is something that is part of our lives; it is really what drives everything. Regardless of what you do, find a way to embrace technology. If you are in financial services, you will have some kind of mobile app or if you have a restaurant, make use of platforms that deliver food. Make sure that you utilise that and find a way to have access to online platforms so that customers can have access to your services in a diversified way.