My customer service experience…one year after my absence

“Welcome back home.” This is how I was recently welcomed to Rwanda by a young and smart immigration officer at the Kigali International Airport. For family reasons, I have been away from Rwanda for over a year now. While I was away, my resident permit expired but because African citizens do no need a visa to enter here, I got a free entry stamp accompanied by a nice smile.

Kigali changes every day and the changes are even more visible when one has been absent for a long time. The tarmacked road from Kicukiro to town is basically finished now. In a year, several outlets have popped up everywhere.

The ALU University at the Kigali Heights gives me great joy seeing young Africans coming to Rwanda for quality education like in Europe or America. The KBC complex is now opened. Compared to several African countries, there is no “white elephants” here because every project that starts gets to finish.

From the airport, my friend Bea took me straight to a bar that had a live band performance. And guess what, there were basically several cultural events happening at different places that same evening. For people like me who moved to live in Rwanda since 2007, I can definitely testify of the huge improvement in terms of entertainment options.

Even if the police is still very strict on noise pollution, we can now sell Rwanda as an entertaining destination to Africans who need a secured environment to have fun.

When on Monday, I went to renew my sim card in one of the telecoms companies in town, I was perplexed by the number of people inside the place.

When I had to wait for three days to activate an ATM card because the bank had technical problems with their systems, I was sad that we were still at the level of service.

Somehow, I had expected that because of the fast digitalisation in the service industry in Rwanda, these would have improved.

But truth be told, customer service has greatly improved on several areas in Rwanda. Imagine my joy when I went into a taxi cab on Tuesday and the driver offered me his free wifi on-board. He also had sweets, chewing gum and was working on having water on-board for his clients.

If you were here several years ago, you will understand that sending emails, sms and waiting for a response is like waiting for the rain in the desert.

Today, I was happy to see that service providers respond to mails; well at least, most of the few that I contacted.

Even Ministers in Rwanda respond to messages within a short notice.

On Wednesday, with the new team that will now run the repackaged The ServiceMag, we went round some offices in Kigali and were positively surprised seeing names and mobile phone numbers of government officials boldly written on each door.

Isn’t this a sign that service excellence has finally taken its roots in public service? I also saw on Thursday a citizen who twitted about a zebra crossing and the next day a team was sent on the site to repair the issue.

Throughout this whole week, I was served by people in different restaurants who could fluently speak English and serve me within fifteen minutes. Believe me, this is a milestone. I know the number of trainings and efforts that business owners and the government had put in taking up the challenge of improving service delivery.

All the same, can we boldly say today that we have reached the expected service level we have all tirelessly hoped and worked for?

My answer is a big No. We have not yet reached our destination even if we have made efforts, there I still more that needs to be done.

Rwanda, as a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events and Exhibitions (MICE) destination, needs to enhance daily its processes and systems to deliver according to international standards.

There is no way we can boost the country’s attractiveness without addressing daily the loopholes of poor customer service for visitors and for ourselves. Today, probably more than ever, we need to be proactive push the level service higher.

Tourism, we all know has huge potentials in driving the economy of this country and this requires that we up our games in offering the best services in all areas; both private and public institutions, upcountry or in Kigali.

When I met Linda, one Tour Operator selling Rwanda to high-end customers from the USA, she said that this “Rwanda has a niche market with travellers who can afford exclusive life time experiences. All that it requires is a real value for money”.

Service efficiency at all levels should be our daily common objective. Let’s not believe we have “reached there” yet. We should all fight mediocrity and average standards. Our daily right attitude is what will help us reach a higher altitude as a destination, a country.

The author is a Customer Service Consultant and the Publisher of the www.theservicemag.com.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.