Customer care is more than just a smile

MY COLLEAGUE and friend Sandra Idossou wrote an article on March 4 on customer service (or lack of it) in which she described an appalling pool side incident. She got some interesting feedback too. Whereas most viewers were positive, one in particular wrote practically another ‘article’ and accused Sandra of ranting about customer service (the response seemed like the rant to me). Mercifully, Sandra did not engage.
Sam Kebongo
Sam Kebongo

MY COLLEAGUE and friend Sandra Idossou wrote an article on March 4 on customer service (or lack of it) in which she described an appalling pool side incident. She got some interesting feedback too. Whereas most viewers were positive, one in particular wrote practically another ‘article’ and accused Sandra of ranting about customer service (the response seemed like the rant to me). Mercifully, Sandra did not engage.

Lack of politesse aside, this response highlights the fact that there is saturation in this whole customer service improvement business. Unfortunately, we have not managed to ‘saturate’ our service delivery with all that is good. Last week I saw this in three separate incidents.

The dentist: Anyone who has suffered a tooth ache will tell you that it is one of the moments when murder seems to be a very close and easy option, if futile, towards solving your agonising pain. 

Imagine being in such suffering and waking up first thing in the morning to see a dentist and then you are kept waiting for three hours only for the good dentist to send you away twice to get some paperwork that the clerk who received you should have sorted out. The second time round you go and the good dentist sends you off to come back the next day. Neither proper examination nor consultation is done all this time and you go back with your toothache. Never mind that you paid consultation fees.

Mercifully, I was directed to another dentist who sorted out the problem in twenty minutes at less than a fifth of the price the first dental clinic would have charged me.

Internet Service Provider: ISP’s, as they are called are some of the most important companies of our time. They provide us with data and voice telephony services. That is, we get internet and phone services from them. Like most people, I had stayed with this company for year. After all, it has been the biggest service provider in the country from the time mobile telephony hit our shores.

To be fair there was a time their customer service was super. Unfortunately the same cannot be said now. My trouble began around the time there was a big conference on Information Technology, where among other things, 4G internet was promised and implemented. I have no idea what 4G is, but I was told that it makes internet speed real swift.  Mine got real slow and only got slower. 

Visits to service centres proved futile. The last time I went, I was told that the service is so good in my area that three or four people had called the service centre to congratulate them for their good work. You don’t need to be very smart to decode what I was being told here.

I moved to their rivals and now I can watch live streams from YouTube in real time.

The quotation: A friend of mine asked me to help him with budgeting for a conference. I accepted. The logical first step was to collect quotations from the relevant hotels that could host the event. I have none.

In the first hotel, the system that connects the computer to the printer broke down. Being a firm believer in paperless systems, I gave my email address. The quotation would be sent in an hour or so. I am still waiting.

The second hotel had the system working but the boss who was to approve the quotation was not ‘available’. Another broken leg situation. 

These are both three star hotels, hardly worth a star.

The point here, is that as you read and listen to rants (including this), we need to realise that customer service is not a smiling contest. It has to be based on efficiency, consistency, focus, responsibility, accountability, proactivity and productivity. Your goods and services must be fit for customers use. You must add value.

Incidentally, these are the values that have driven Rwanda leadership in the last 20 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi. It is a lesson that you and I as well as the business community should learn and fast. 

Else let Sandra and the rest keep up the rant. We must each work at this.

Sam Kebongo is an entrepreneurship Development Consultant based in Kigali.

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