Last year, on the night of December 18th, the inaugural Smart Service Awards went down at the Kigali Serena Hotel.
It was not the most glitzy event one could have attended that evening, and many people who attended said as much.
Many more wondered what sort of award ceremony it was, after it emerged that there was no monetary prize for the winners.
This year, the Smart Service Awards are slated for November 25th, at Park Inn. In attendance will be people from all walks of life, from company executives, government leaders, young people, and media practitioners.
But Emmanuel Junior Mugisha, the Managing Director of East African Youth Development Agency, the company behind the awards had this to say when he dropped by The New Times Wednesday afternoon:
“It’s awarding outstanding service in companies, institutions, and celebrities, but mainly focusing on how they have embraced digital platforms and innovation to improve on service delivery and quality of products.
Mugisha revealed that while no cash prizes were handed out last year, this year will see winners in the individual categories get “just a small token of appreciation”.
“We have prizes for individuals, and prizes for companies/institutions. For companies and institutions, we are not giving them cash prizes but trophies.
“Most of these companies do not need money from a small company like us, they just want to be recognised by the public that they are outstanding from their competitors and that they are doing well,” Mugisha reckoned.
“However for individuals we will give out some small prizes for motivation, although we want to also change their mindset to know that being rewarded is not always about getting money but can also mean building a CV or a career because at the end of the day, this kind of motivation is always good. We will give them digital prizes in line with the digital platforms they use – things like smart phones, laptops, and cameras.”
He explained that the Smart Service Awards is all about rewarding exemplary service by companies, institutions, and individuals.
“It will be a good platform to network and share ideas, and we shall have keynote speakers tackling different topics. Attendance will be 90 percent by invitation while the remaining 10 percent is for members of the general public.”
This year, organizers included a new category, the Social Media Celebrity Award, and as Mugisha explains; “these celebrities have the biggest following on their social media platforms and most of their followers are young people who look up to them as their role models.
We want to encourage them to be using those platforms in a responsible and positive way that both encourages and inspires their followers, for instance posting things about entrepreneurship or about job creation.
Nominations for the awards opened online on September 22 and closed on Thursday November 15. After a week, nominees were announced, before voting kicked off on October 22.
Up to 30 different categories will be awarded.
East African Youth Development Agency, the company behind the awards, operates out of the East African region, but has its roots in Rwanda.
“The company empowers young people, does leadership and career development and mentoring, and these awards are in line with inspiring people to do good work and to motivate those who have done good work – basically encouraging people to always strive for excellence at whatever they do, and also to know that the public recognises what they do.”
“We have involved the public in the award ceremony because we believe that the public are the judges. We believe that the public is the best judge because it is they that consume the goods and services of the companies that will be awarded. We called upon the public to nominate on our website and after the deadline there was selection of the top five nominees by a panel.”
Mugisha further explained the criterion on which the nominations were based:
“The first criterion was, companies and individuals who use online platforms have the biggest following, so we picked top five on social media (Facebook and Twitter) because you can’t encourage best use of digital platforms when people are not using it. So the criteria were based on number of followers online.”
While the second criteria examined how these companies use their social media handles (in terms of engagement with followers, creativity, and the impact of what they post on the public, and their general influence.
Mugisha describes himself as “a young person who is passionate about positive change in the community. I’ve always grown up with passion to serve the community and seeing people’s lives change.”
In that regard, he was one of the brains behind the Rwanda Broadcasters Excellence Awards that were initiated in 2013, and that recognise excellence in local broadcast media.
The trend continued in June this year, with the Rwanda Sports Awards at the Kigali Marriott Hotel.
“In future we intend to bring on more awards because in Rwanda the culture of competition and awards is just picking up,” he promised.
“With customer expectations continually rising, the wider community is becoming aware of the value and role that Customer Service plays in achieving business success. This highly demanding area is arguably the critical success factor for many organizations globally and countries at large.
For this reason, it is important that Rwanda as a country has its own Service Excellence Awards to recognise, promote and reward excellence, professionalism and outstanding achievement in all sectors.”