in 1992, the US Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week as a nationally recognised event, celebrated annually during the first full week in October. Since then, thousands of companies across the United States and around the world celebrate Customer Service Week between October 3 - 7, underlining the importance customers and people, who serve and support customers on a daily basis.
In Rwanda, The ServiceMag started engaging the general public on the importance of these celebrations four years ago, and we are happy to see that even though many institutions do not organise any specific activities during the week, a few do. These include some of the leading financial institutions in the country and all the three local telecom companies.
Despite its benefits, many people wonder why these celebrations are important for us in Rwanda. For instance, when we started contacting some companies few months ago for partner with us and sponsor some of the activities we have planned for the week, many claimed that; “Service has improved in Rwanda and because of that we have cut our budget for such activities”.
It saddens me to realise that, for some people, the level of service we get is now acceptable. It is true that Rwanda embarked on many campaigns to improve the customer service, which was really bad in the past few years. It is also true that institutions such as Rwanda Immigration is an example in terms of delivery excellent service. But the truth that we should never oversee is that we are still very far from where we need to be.
We cannot rest on our laurels even if the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index report for 2016-2017 released last week indicates that Rwanda has moved from 71st to 37th position on degree of customer orientation (how well companies treat customers)… This is indeed an important milestone but hear me, people of Rwanda, we still have a long way to go because excellent service is still rare in most cases across the country.
Coincidently, I received a comment on Saturday from a follower of our social media networks that got me perplexed: “I know customer service is really bad in Kigali. Are companies aware of this? Are they doing anything to reverse this situation? Are there companies that offer customer service training and leadership coaching to corporate staff?” they asked. So, if we want to see visible results on the level of service we receive in all places and at all times in both public or private sectors; retail or large companies, here below are some areas we still need to work on urgently:
Customer service training
No matter how well-equipped or beautiful your institution looks, the bottom line lies in having an engaged and well-trained team. Training should be a priority at all levels. The last time I engaged a business owner about training his entire team on customer service, his excuse for not training staff was: “What if after I have trained them, they leave and join my competitors? I would have invested money in them which will not benefit my company, but others.” Obviously, such kind of thinking misses the big picture, and self-destructive.
Instilling a customer service culture
Culture is defined as the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts etc. Culture is derived from shared patterns of behaviours and interactions created through habits and practices.
A culture is adopted by how we cultivate and nurture habits and practices in our homes, offices, communities. I simply refuse the idea that the Rwandan culture is not service oriented because people are slow, not out coming, not expressive in their emotions and the way they deal with each. Rwanda is rich because of the diversity of origins of people who live here today. The service culture can and will obviously be influenced by the many groups of people that now make up the country.
Customer service starts from the top
There is no way your employees can deliver exceptional service if you the manager or the supervision is not a service-oriented person. Are you an example to your teams? Do you greet them in the morning? Do you respond to customers’ mails? If you want your teams to deliver well, you need to have both your customers and employees at the forefront on your daily interactions. Be an example when hiring, training, supervising, motivating, rewarding and recognising your teams’ efforts.
Improve customer feedback tools
It still baffles me that after all is said, we still have several institutions that do not engage their customers/users on social media. I wish government would enact a law that will make the use of social media mandatory for all institutions. Today, no one has the time to fill long boring questionnaires on your services. Suggestions boxes are simply archaic. Use modern tools to collect feedback from customers. ‘Mystery’ shopping is also an excellent way to see and hear what your customers go through.
Therefore, as we mark this year’s Customer Service Week, let’s use it as a unique opportunity to promote excellent customer service in the country. In case you did not plan any specific activities, you can join The ServiceMag on the numerous activities it has lined with other stakeholders.
The celebration to reward and appreciate various outstanding service personnel that have been nominated by the general public will crown our week-long activities. We need your support, so get involved. Together, and each day, we should put our efforts together to improve the level of service delivery in Rwanda. Make a difference this Customer Service Week.
The author is a customer service consultant and the publisher
of www. theservicemag.com