I am a happy consumer since July 1, 2010 as Rwanda together with the other four East African Countries embarked on the Common Market Protocol. This means that competition is going to be available almost on all sectors of business.
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda have all opened up their markets to each other and this brings us joy here in Rwanda. Joy in the sense that this Common Market Protocol will bring free movement of labor, capital, goods and services within the region.
What I love about the Common Market is that it will also avail greater opportunities for trade in goods and services; opportunities for greater competition; employment opportunities for people in the East African Community member states.
Well, this is great news for us as customers as we will have more choices. We will not have to stick to the poor service provider we are used to because we have no alternative.
This is the time business owners in Rwanda have to wake up, especially those who were still sleeping or thinking that they were the best in town. It is time to adopt ways of offering exceptional customer service that will make their customers stick to them even when competition arises.
In times like these when competition becomes tougher, as a business owner, you will need to offer more than what others do. You will have to be “better” than your next door competitor.
Competition should have positive effects on innovation. In today’s technology-driven world, innovation is crucial to success. Today, more than ever, as a business owner, you need to become more innovative to develop new products and new services that will best meet the expectations of customers.
Competition has a positive impact, not only on the well being of consumers, but also on a country’s economy as a whole. Competition today should bolster the productivity and international competitiveness of the business sector and promotes dynamic markets and economic growth.
I love the competition that the Common Market is bringing in Rwanda because it will help improve on customer service. Customer service is all about making a customer satisfied enough that they will remain loyal even when competition arises.
For example since cost of fuel is the same at Engen, Merez and Kobil, what makes customers chose one petrol station over others is the “little extra thing” such as the warmth of the attendant, smile and professionalism and the fact that they may clean your car windscreen etc.
These are the little details that will make the difference among competitors.
“In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment” says Charles Darwin.
As a business owner, when there is real competition, you need to go round your competitors and know what they are offering. This helps you offer more than they do. You need to look for gaps in their services so that you can fill them.
Be an answer to the loopholes. Bringing your prices lower when there is competition doesn’t always make the customer stick to you. Rather make sure your products/services are worth the prices your customers are paying.
When I go to a “4 star” hotel like Laico for instance where I pay Rwf15,000 for lunch; the services I am expecting as a customer should be worth the money I’m paying.
The service I receive should differ from what I could receive at Karibu Restaurant where I pay Rwf2,500 for almost the same quality of food. I should not be yelling on top of my voice to have the attention of the waiter who is at the corner of the counter chatting with his colleagues.
In times of tough competition, there’s no real secret in getting your customers stick to your business. All you need to do is provide customer service that exceeds your customers’ expectations and outshines your competitors’ customer service.
As a consumer, I sincerely hope that competition will have a positive effect on businesses’ efficiency and productivity. Companies that are faced with vigorous competition are continually pressed to become more efficient and more productive.
“Competition is always a fantastic thing, we’ve got some fantastic competitors and it keeps us on our toes” says Bill Gates.
The author is a customer service consultant working in Rwanda.