I want to start this piece with a confession: I envy Rwandans for having a President who is a fervent advocate of customer service. Throughout my years working on customer service in Africa, I have never seen any other President on the continent so passionate about service delivery. Over the past eight years working in Rwanda, I have heard the First Citizen of this country talk at most major government retreats on why Rwandans should refuse sub-standard service. I love the fact that he always engages citizens to demand top services from the private sector players and, most especially, from the public sector.
While we are used to seeing CEOs, managers in the private sector all over the world recognise the competitive edge their businesses get by offering good customer service, it is not common to hear a President of a country engage the nation on the need to excel in service delivery.
How I wish Rwandans seize this opportunity to go faster and further on implementing service measures that will help the country take off. Do not take me wrong. I know the country has made tremendous efforts in being where it is today in terms of service delivery, but believe you me, we can and should have done much more than what we have done so far.
Service excellence is a culture that needs to be embraced by all if we want to see real development in all sectors in our countries. Instilling this culture starts with how we treat each other in our day-to-day activities, and how we execute our roles as employees.
As Africans, we are used to giving and receiving poor services, and thinking it is right because of our poor mentality. Most of us grow up with a wrong perception that excellence cannot be “African”. We “accepted” stereotypes like “African time” or “African disorder” as ideal, and for many Africans, it is “normal” to be late, or not to respect deadlines or promises. Otherwise, how can one explain the fact that customers can wait for hours to be served in a bank? Why are many service providers still treating clients as beggars? Why do we still have citizens go through hell, literally, to see a doctor? Why is it still a problem for most people to complain on poor services offered by many firms?
I recently lost a friend in a big hospital of Kigali due to negligence as we had to wait for several hours to be attended to by a medical officer at the facility after a car accident. By the time the hospital “emergency” team finished all their bureaucracy and started examining her, it was too late. And yet, today, the family does not want to take the matter to the court because as they say, it will not yield any results.
Remember, service excellence concerns two parties; the service provider and the service receiver. Both of these parties need to be educated on what a good service is because good service is, indeed, not obvious to everyone.
The last time I complained about what was missing in a dish I was served at one of our new hotels in town, I was told that I was “too demanding and too much into details”.
To demand good service is a right and a duty that we should all take seriously if we want Rwanda to reach that level of excellence, where we will be compared only with the best in the world.
At the recently held Umushyikirano in Kigali last month, where leaders and citizens debated on the state of the nation and the way forward towards prosperity, I just loved listening to the President’s closing speech. Even though I was not invited, thanks to Rwanda Broadcasting Agency TV, I was happy to hear President Kagame talk so strongly about the need to improve the quality of services in the country.
“To improve service delivery, you need to change your mentality and believe in your right to demand what you are due. Providing good service is not something we need to be given, we are capable of achieving it if we set our mind to it. If we don’t demand that we get good service, we also have a problem,” he said.
Instilling a service excellence culture should start with each every person, and each single day… first by our leaders, top CEOs, bosses who, for instance, never respond to e-mails, return calls, or requests of citizens.
I know this because The ServiceMag social media platforms for complaints and compliments, still receives many complaints about their bosses and leaders, etc, because people are scared to do this publicly. If we do not feel secure to complain, then we will not be able to reach that level of service excellence we are aspiring for.
Instilling a service excellence culture requires many trainings, awareness campaigns, advocacy, as well as sanctions for people at all levels. We need training on attitude, mind-set, business etiquette and many more. We all need to acquire the right attitudes that accept criticism and a conducive framework for a service culture in Rwanda.
The writer is a customer service consultant and the publisher
of The ServiceMag