It is 9pm and John Baptiste Niyonkuru is preparing to have dinner. The phones rings and it is one of his clients on the other line. “My cistern looks like it is broken, I need it fixed right away.” Without hesitation, Niyonkuru, a technician who provides door-to-door services, grabs his toolbox from under the sitting room table and leaves the comfort of his home to attend to the client’s emergency call.
Though most people in his line of business do not accept night calls, this has become sort of a norm to him.
He says he sometimes gets calls from customers at midnight to go fix leakages. “With such a kind of situation, you cannot wait until morning…things would have gotten out of hand and you would not be that useful anymore, especially if the damage is big to flood a building and cause millions of losses,” Niyonkuru explains.
Niyonkuru and team devised a strategy of moving door-to-door, providing 24-hour services, under their group Welding, Electrical and Plumbing Services to beat competitors.
How innovation spur business growth
Unlike Niyonkuru most people would rather sit back, waiting for clients at their workplaces. Niyonkuru scoffs at this approach, arguing that one has to be ‘out there’ looking for business, and “should also be able to attend to customers at any time of day or night”.
He says that is the reason why his team designed an approach of, not only visiting new building sites, but also reaching out to individual clients that are likely to be in need of these services. The initiative seems to have paid off as the firm serves over 250 big customers annually, he says.
Richard Nkurunziza, the head of the group’s marketing team, explains that previously, before they adopted the work method, they would wait for long before getting new customers.
This, he adds, forced them to think of innovative ways to get more clients, a situation that largely contributed to ‘birth’ of the new initiative where they are on call around the clock.
Nkurunziza says besides being convenient for customers, it assures them (clients) of reliability. With the growth in business, he adds, the group was forced to increase manpower.
“Four years ago, we were only three members on the team but we had to recruit workers following a surge in the number of clients,” Nkurunziza explains.
He says they currently have more than 10 technicians, employed in different fields.
“We were overwhelmed by work that we had to hire more people to be able provide services around the clock and also improve efficiency,” he notes.
Just like Niyonkuru, he also believes that provision of door-to-door and working late were the turning point in the business that have seen it grow faster compared to if they had employed only orthodox ways of doing business.
Nkurunziza adds that customers like the team for its professionalism and affordable services.
“One can have their water pipes fixed for as low as Rwf10,000,” he says. However, despite experiencing this immense progress, Niyonkuru asserts that not all has been a smooth ride.
Because the group imports most of the materials they use and provide good services, these at times affect their earnings.
“We always spend a lot on buying good materials not produced in the country,” Nkurunziza says, adding that construction materials are ‘highly’ regulated as well.
He adds that another challenge is customers who want services at night, explaining that inspecting the ‘problem’ area is at times difficult. Niyonkuru says in situations, where there are broken electric cables, especially on high-rise buildings, it may be slightly complex to identify and follow them.
“There are also buildings with defects and, during repairs, such structures may collapse or cause accidents especially in the night,” he adds.
These drawbacks, however, have not stood in the way of the group’s determination to provide timely and top-notch services. The team leaders say they draw their inspiration to keep moving and providing better services from the appreciation expressed by customers.
When you extend business services closer to the people, it becomes easier for them to utilise them. Sometimes people hate having to go searching for services, but where one can access on their door steps, it makes things easier for them. Besides, one might know where to get welding or plumbing, particularly those in rural areas...
Jean Bosco Kaliisa
Welding, plumbing and electrical services are exceptional. It is always hard to get a plumber or an electrician willing to work late in the night. At times there are emergencies that need immediate attention, so if you a plumber on call it saves a lot.
Even when you provide good services, if you do not reach out to people you may lose customers. People who are innovative and can provide services readily are hard to come by, that is why this group has been able to expand quickly. So long as there is a telephone contact in the public domain, help is always a call away.