CUSTOMER CARE: Looking forward to improved customer service in 2010

Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills and a million smiles has been facing a real challenge in terms of customer service. Even though there are tremendous positive things happening here, tourists, investors and many Rwandans have been complaining about poor service delivery. Good Customer Care has indeed been the biggest ingredient missing in our service industry and this issue has actually drowned a lot of attention from many people in the society.

Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills and a million smiles has been facing a real challenge in terms of customer service. Even though there are tremendous positive things happening here, tourists, investors and many Rwandans have been complaining about poor service delivery.

Good Customer Care has indeed been the biggest ingredient missing in our service industry and this issue has actually drowned a lot of attention from many people in the society.

While addressing this issue of at the national retreat in Gisenyi in January 2009, President Paul Kagame said that “Customer service remains highly problematic in private, public and civil society domains, something that is most certainly going to preoccupy us in the coming days, months and years,”

Research done by the On the Frontier Group (OTF) and by the Institute of Political Analysis and Research (IPAR) shows that Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could increase to $40 million per year by 2012 if services are improved.

In March 2009 the government nominated a ten-member national steering committee mandated at rolling out a nationwide customer care campaign in both the public and private sectors.

About Rwf283 million ($500,000) was allocated for this two-year national campaign to improve customer service.
Now that the year 2010 has begun we need to review 2009 and project how we shall tackle and improve service delivery in 2010. We need to ask ourselves what have been the major things done in improving customer care in Rwanda?  In which areas do we still have to work more in 2010?                      

There have been a number of positive initiatives in both private and government institutions. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Rwanda Workforce Development (RWD), the Private Sector Federation (PSF) and many other public institutions have all put in place measures in improving service delivery.

Customer Care Trainings

Customer service has indeed become today an urgent necessity especially if the country wants to reach its vision 2020 objectives. Competition has also become even ruder with Rwanda joining the East African Community and service providers have no other choice than training their staff.

Trainings are aimed at helping people deal with customers to be empowered with the right skills and attitudes. Since the whole campaign began, there have been few trainings here and there especially in the private sector.

The financial institutions have been more involved in training their staff. Some trainings have also been organized to the hospitality industry, the police, local governors etc…

But many government institutions are still left behind. Civil servants still think it is a favor they do to customers by serving them.

Mindset still needs to be improved and trainings need to become compulsory for business owners and for government institutions.

Though trainings are not the only remedy in improving customer care in Rwanda; they are an effective way of reducing skill gaps.

Customer Care trainings need to be done properly in respect of the local environment; with a real system of follow up and coaching on the field after training session.

It is probably time that companies and government institutions be encouraged to capture good customer care in their corporate strategies, visions and missions.

Role of the media in the campaign

Poor level of customer care in Rwanda is attributed to the lack of awareness of its importance and this is everywhere; in all sectors both in the public and private, at all levels; managerial, employees and employers and business owners.

As the cause of the problem is basically rooted down to negative attitude towards work and mindset, the whole nation needs to be embarked on this campaign.

This is where the media has a big role in sensitizing the population. Even large rural population and weak professional base need to be involved. 

The suggestion for 2010 is for the media to increase its awareness role. 

The ‘Customer Care Handbook’

The Private Sector Federation (PSF) in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) launched a Customer Care Handbook in English and in Kinyarwanda at the International Trade Fair in August.

This 42 page handbook; written in a simple language is targeted at all people dealing with customers. The 14 chapters deal with topics such as the Importance of the Customer, Why Improve on Customer Care, What the Attitudes I need to adopt, How to communicate with customers etc…

Though there has been positive feedback from business owners on the attractiveness of the handbook, the use of simple language, the Kinyarwanda version; the handbooks are still not available to the public and upcountry.

Rwanda is privileged to have its president and the entire government at the forefront of teaching Rwandans to offer better customer care. But the journey is still long in getting the entire population buy into this vision of good customer care.

Attitudes and mindset still remain big challenges. Efforts still need to be done on skills, language barriers, speedy services, keeping to promises, welcoming, being professional and enthusiastic in dealing with customers, etc.

But as we move into 2010, we all need to become more responsible. Customer Care is the issue of everyone here.  Everyone should be part of this fight against poor service.

That is the only way we can improve.  Let’s all remember that our altitude as a nation largely depends on our daily individual attitudes.

An old Chinese Proverb says that “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” So let’s all do something in 2010 in improving service delivery in Rwanda.

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better; let’s all improve on our attitudes in 2010.

Wishing you all a better customer care year!

Highlights

Rwanda’s GDP could increase to $40 million per year by 2012 if services are improved.

Rwf283 million ($500,000) was allocated for a two-year customer care national campaign

The author is a customer service consultant working in Rwanda

sandra.idossou@sheiconsulting.com

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