“Rwandan very courteous, but slow. The people were nice and composed but not that dynamic, especially when dealing with customers. Most times, I had the impression that language could be a serious barrier as service staff usually smiled at my request, but didn’t seem quite certain they had understood everything told them,” said one of the guests I met at the World Economic Forum (WEF)on Africa, which that took place in Kigali last month.
He added that most of the service staff were rather very slow in receiving customers or delivering orders.
“Generally, Rwanda is a very beautiful the country, security is assured, but the hospitality industry needs to do more to make guests feel at home and valued, coupled with rendering quick service,” the WEF participant added.
Because of my work in the service industry, I often take it upon myself to ask different people I meet for their impression of the sector. However, some of the responses I receive are quite revealing, especially when they come from people who have travelled across the world, and are first time visitors to Rwanda.
Like most Rwandans, I was so proud of the professionalism behind the organisation the World Economic Forum … I beamed of joy when I tried to go through the process right from arrival at the Kigali International Airport.
I travelled to Kigali on Monday, May 10, from Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo, and was happy to see a full flight with excited delegates from Cameroon, Congo DRC and Brazzaville. Many were curious about what to discover in Rwanda.
The immigration process was smooth, especially for the African delegates who did not need to acquire visas for the trip. The tent outside the arrival hall was accommodating, with free WiFi, tea, coffee, and water, while transport to different hotels across the City of Kigali was also provided free by buses that were always on standby.
At City Hall, where registration was done, things were a bit complex, and it was impossible for local people to register. From what I was told, registration were done through WEF at over $3,000 per person, thus making it impossible for many Rwandan business people to attend some of the sessions.
Obviously, I did not manage to access the Camp de Kigali itself, where the majority of the big sessions were held, but I was lucky to be invited to several side events that took place at different locations in town.
Looking at the effort that was put in organising a forum of this calibre that smoothly, with quality services that met international standards simply shows the determination and hard work of the leadership and people of Rwanda.
Rwanda is indeed very ready to welcome more MICE events (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events).
The MICE segment which usually brings large groups are planned well in advance and are normally bid for at very high level places and through lots of lobbying. The marketing process of cities bidding for such big conferences is normally conducted well in advance, often times, several years before, as we can all understand that securing such major events do benefit the local economy of the host city or country.
Rwanda is well placed for such events, thanks to the country’s infrastructure and other facilities required to host big conferences. However, we need to work on the soft things. We need to hire more trained people who can deliver at all costs.
All other components that compliment the organisation of big conferences in Rwanda need to be examined properly, especially those related to service delivery, because it is important that Rwanda delivers excellence services that will help the country to stay competitive to win more MICE events.
Rwandan business operators need to be reminded that excellence service delivery does not just happen one day. It needs more than investing in walls or infrastructure. It needs planning, training, systems that work and that can give them the competitive advantage they need to survive in a tough and increasingly uncertain business climate.
In today’s customer-oriented business environment, “people skills” are critical for organisational success. How we handle our customers will directly affect our collective goals as a country, as well as in helping boost the country’s image globally.
Therefore, there is no room for mediocrity, sub-standard service, or for “African” service because we are competing on a international level, and must meet those expectations. No shortcuts. No compromises on standards and quality. We simply have to be “up there” to stay relevant in highly competitive global industry.
Of course, all these can be realised if we work together as country. What do you think needs to be done to help Rwandan service providers offer the same or even better of service experiences to people attending MICE? I would love to hear your suggestions.
The author is a customer service consultant and the publisher of The ServiceMag