Recently, I was in a brainstorming meeting on customer service with branch managers of one of the insurance companies in the country and an interesting question came up.
This question is actually a frequent one that I’m often asked during training sessions or through daily discussions on Customer Care.
“Can Rwanda really achieve good customer service looking at the culture heritage?”
We keep on hearing about Rwandan culture throughout all conversations and in all levels of society. Many people think that it is simply utopist to think of achieving good customer service here.
I have often met people who are pessimist or simply defaitist about this issue. But please tell me; is the “Rwandan Culture” really contrary to good customer service practices?
Before answering this question, I would like to invite us to analyze some of the meanings of Culture.
Culture is defined as a “shared, learned, symbolic system of values, beliefs and attitudes that shapes and influences perception and behavior”
It is also described as “a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, group or even a population”
Looking through these definitions, we can understand that Culture is highly dependant on Values and Attitudes. And the good news here is that we often chose these Values and Attitudes.
They are most at times our personal decisions. Thank God, there is nothing like “born attitudes”. We just adopt or chose through our daily behaviors, values, beliefs etc.
Though sometimes culture is passed on to us by tradition; we also tend out to live with these traditions and even pass them to future generations.
The way we actually deal with people or customers today have definitely an impact on how future generations will also treat their customers.
If for instance, we keep quiet today and accept poor service as something incurable, we will arguably pass it on to the next generations; our daily individual and collective habits will then become our “Culture”.
In Rwanda today, we are suffering from poor customer service because of so many reasons.
Among them, there is probably the fact that a certain time, people did not pay any more attention to good customer service practices. Because of lack of competition, business owners and service people thought they were more important than their customers. Customers on the other hand had no choice and for that matter decided not accept sub standard service.
But hey people of Rwanda, we are today in the 21rst century. We are part of the globalization. We are no more alone on our mountains. So many interesting things are happening behind our mountains.
With technology and the diversity of means of communication, we are part of a dynamic economic world. For those who still do not know, we are even part of the East African Community.
We just can’t sit and comfort ourselves in the idea that a cultural change is not possible. We all need to change or rather improve our ways of doing business. And I know we are capable of that. Miracles will not happen like that if we do not change our state of mind.
This is the right time to adopt today new behaviors for our own benefit first and for the benefit of our country.
This is the time to refuse mediocrity. This is the time to fight vehemently poor customer care practices not only in the private and public sectors but also in big organizations and small retail shops.
Herm Albright says that “A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort”.
Let’s come together and annoy the poor service providers by denouncing them. It is today our right and OBLIGATION to complain. Let’s not be complaisant. Let’s be ready to be described as the “ever complainer”.
If we want to change the service culture here, we need to be responsible first as customers but also as service providers. This implies that individually and collectively, we take corrective measures today because if we do not, nothing will change tomorrow.
I love this quotation by Dennis and Wendy Mannering that says that “Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?”
What are your attitudes today? Do you respect your promise? Do you keep time? Are you courteous to people surrounding you? Do you respect your lunch break time?
Are you the first to greet people who come to your office or shop? Do you aim at good products and services? Do you take the customer for granted? Do you drag on your personal telephone conversation while the customer is waiting for you?
So people of Rwanda, my answer to the question above is a big “YES”; Rwanda can achieve good customer care practices.
If China was able to sensitize its population on the need of smile and hospitality towards visitors during the Beijing Olympic Games; we can surely also achieve good customer care in Rwanda.
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” Winston Churchill says. Watch the little things you do daily and always remember that “Cultural Change” in Rwanda depends on your daily actions.
The Author is a customer service expert working in Rwanda.