CUSTOMER CARE: Service gap between Kigali and upcountry

I’m this morning a happy person as I sit to enjoy my white chocolate mocha with two delicious cookies at the Bourbon Coffee Shop in Kigali. I think I have never felt so good in this coffee shop ever since I came to Rwanda. I was greeted by a smiling Abdi who said “it’s a pleasure to see you again Sandra”. Wow, I felt like on another planet. 

I’m this morning a happy person as I sit to enjoy my white chocolate mocha with two delicious cookies at the Bourbon Coffee Shop in Kigali. I think I have never felt so good in this coffee shop ever since I came to Rwanda.

I was greeted by a smiling Abdi who said “it’s a pleasure to see you again Sandra”. Wow, I felt like on another planet.

His friendliness and his enthusiasm were simply contagious. My white chocolate mocha was served by Claire within just 10 minutes and this with yet another big smile.

As I kept on appreciating the joy of being served so well in Kigali, I couldn’t understand why there was such a huge difference in service delivery outside Kigali.

I was in Gitarama yesterday, just 45 minutes drive from Kigali and was quite surprised by the miserable service in this hotel called “GM Lando”.

From my other experience in Butare, I really didn’t have any feeling of writing this week about hospitality but believe me dear readers, this new experience just blew me off because I had the impression that good customer care stops here in Kigali.

I was with a group of seven people who had earlier on booked and paid for nine rooms. But when we got there, two people could not get their rooms.

What we received there could not be called service. We waited for more than 2 hours to have a meal they charged Rwf3500.

There was no running water in my bathroom and I had to beg for hot water in a basin from the kitchen.

Breakfast was a rare commodity and to avoid getting a heart attack, I simply ran away from Gitarama with the 8 o’clock bus without having breakfast at this so called hotel.
To be frank, this new experience made me feel angry, frustrated, depressed but most especially very skeptical about service providers outside Kigali.

And As I sit here writing this article at the Bourbon Coffee in Kigali, I have the impression to have traveled from another planet just by a 45 minutes drive.

In the bus, I kept on wondering what could be the cause of such a huge difference between service delivery in Kigali and upcountry.

I do not want to generalize this but I think many service providers are just on their own when they are up country?

It seems like they are exempted from all that is happening in Kigali. Is good customer care only for those in Kigali? Is it too much to request for good customer care upcountry?

If service at just 45 minutes drive from Kigali is so poor, you can imagine what it will be in Kamembe or at a place that is 6 hours drive from Kigali.

Someone needs to look through this. There must be a reason. Maybe the national awareness campaign on customer care has not well crossed the borders of Kigali or maybe some business owners upcountry are waiting for the customer care steering committee to come and implement good customer care practices in their businesses.

And this is impossible by the way. Whether in Kigali or upcountry, business owners need to understand that they owe their customers minimum standards of care.

Whether in Kigali or in Butare, if you are a business owner, you need to respect the following basics:

1. Offer adequate training to all your staff
Whether a small or big organization, whether in Kigali or in Gisenyi, you will need to spend time to train your people especially when you recruit them.

Your people should be fully informed about your products and services available. Continuous training will empower your employees and offer them tools and ability to offer quality service as well as to solve problems.

Much as I agree that it costs money to train people, it will cost you more if you decide not to.

2. Make your staff see the benefit of good customer care
It is important you discuss about the benefits of customer care with your staff.

Let them see that they are the first beneficiaries of good customer care. And this benefit has a larger impact on the country as a whole.

By offering your staff incentives, recognition, good salaries, your team members will better understand their role as ambassadors of your company and of Rwanda.

3. Be an example and remain firm
As a business owner, live by what you preach. Be the good example of customer care yourself. Let your staff learn through the way you behave towards customers.

In this hotel in Gitarama, the owner kept on saying “I’m sorry” without really offering any adequate solution.
Even if you employ relatives in your business, be firm to all employees when it comes to customer service. Do not accept mediocrity.

Do not think because you are upcountry, you can behave anyhow towards customers.

Customer service is a compulsory element for any business whether in Kigali or upcountry. Even if you are upcountry, you still need to be competitive and this requires that you aim at good customer care.

Remember that a repeat customer is the result of the good relationship you build up through excellent customer service and this no matter where you are.

The author is a customer service consultant working in Rwanda

sandra.idossou@sheiconsulting.com
www.sheiconsulting.com

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