'Ihangane' should not be used as a means to mask poor customer service

We have all been there; that moment you walk into a bank, government office, a restaurant or café, and all you want to be provided with is a reasonable level of customer service, which in all honesty should not even begin to break a baby’s sweat.

We have all been there; that moment you walk into a bank, government office, a restaurant or café, and all you want to be provided with is a reasonable level of customer service, which in all honesty should not even begin to break a baby’s sweat.

It is that simple, well at least most of the time. But, what do you get more often than not?


You receive a lousy service from an establishment, which in my humble opinion, should be doing everything in their power to provide an excellent service so much so that a customer is persuaded to become a regular customer if the establishment belongs in the private sector, and a satisfied taxpayer if the establishment is in the public sector, and thereby impacting positively on their chances of surviving in the increasingly competitive market where both fit and unfit businesses are closing day after day due to lack of customers. Logical wouldn’t you say?


Which then brings me to two crucial questions; if it is indeed true that every customer with money is by some means king, and it is also true that as customers we are free to take our business elsewhere where we feel valued and appreciated, why then is it that we are continuously duped into accepting excuses and told kwihangana every time service provided is found wanting?


Additionally, what can we all do to improve this critical area that clearly needs improvement and is key to us achieving some elements of Rwanda Vision 2020, such as becoming East and Central Africa’s service hub?

But first, let us scrutinize the nature and misuse of the word ihangane.Although I am not a linguistic expert, it is my understanding that the term ihangane loosely translates into a request from one person to another to be patient or to endure.

In essence, this is a word that should be deployed in circumstances where the individual making the request has no other satisfactory means to solve a problem in question or offer a better solution.

For instance, ihangane has traditionally been used to console friends or relativesin times of misfortune, for example, when a life has been lost or a natural disaster has struck a community.

Lately, however, ihangane has been hijacked by those who predominantly provide a bad service as a means to mask poor service delivery and be able to get away with it.

To illustrate, frequently, an individual will walk into an office, a restaurant or café, place a request /order for a service, and if they are lucky, they will be asked to take a seat and waitwhen this is at an office, or asked to wait, at times endlessly when it is at an eatery.

Moments later when they feel they have waited for a reasonable time and decide to intervene to find out what is going on with their request / order, more often than not, they are told kwihangana, and then some – something that has now become an almost automated response to every enquiry.

However, must we continue this way? Surely not, because this kind of attitude will be sure to dent our quest to become East and Central Africa’s service hub, an ambition that is important to us and clearly achievable.

Of course, I should stress that there are exceptional operators out there who strive day in and day out to provide an excellent service both in the private and public sectors.

And thanks to social media, such operators are increasingly acknowledged and showered with praise, with the Rwanda Directorate of Immigration and Emigration being a prime recipient of acknowledgment. So, what can the others learn about service delivery?

Simple – I say simple because;by default when an establishment does not take good care of customers someone else does, and eventually that business shuts down.

In the public sector, continuous failure to deliver services can potentially lead to lack of trust in the system, which often breeds corruption among other vices.

Therefore, it is first and foremost in the interest of the establishment to provide an excellent service in order to retain customers and to develop. You see, excellent customer service is not just about welcoming and smiling.

Sure, the two ae helpful, but they are just the beginning of a long but rewarding experience.

The key to good customer service is building good relationships with customers. It all begins with the basics such as thanking the customer and promoting a positive, helpful and friendly environment, which ultimately ensures they leave with a great impression of your business.

It also goes without saying that a happy customer will return often and is likely to spend more money.

To ensure this happens, however, businesses should strive to know what customers consider to be good customer service, take the time to find out customers’ expectations, follow up on both positive and negative feedback, and more importantly, continuously look for ways to improve the level of customer service you deliver.

In the end, as a nation with little natural resources at our disposal, we have identified the service sector as one that can help us to leapfrog from being an agrarian economy to becoming a modern economy where financial deals are made, ICT related businesses, to mention but two.

To achieve all the above, however, we must abandon our often nonchalant and sometimes lazy attitudes where for some reasons some of us wrongly assume that when we are providing a service, we are in fact doing someone a favour. No, when it is business, it is business – let us act like it.


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