Apart from RwandAir, one of the new African Airlines I am very proud of is Ecair, the national transporter of Congo Brazzaville. Headed by a super intelligent woman, this airline has grown into a regional transporter opening recently its 12th destination.
Today, they pride themselves with 7 aircrafts, 136 weekly flights and close to a million passengers. They have recently launched a direct flight from Brazzaville to Beirut, Lebanon’s capital after Paris and Brussels.
Ecair, like many other African airlines has many challenges but I am regularly impressed by the level of customer service they try to offer. When I asked why the two pilots and head cabin personnel are always “white” rather that Congolese, I was told that Ecair has hired a Swiss company to manage some parts of its operations.
“Well, I understand why they have such good service,” I quipped. I was ashamed to hear myself pronounce such an empty sentence but as I reflected on it, I realized how relevant that stereotype is. We live in an environment where most people believe that “good” and “quality” things can only be done by “whites”.
You are probably among those who believe that westerners have a better understanding of “quality” than Africans? Believe me, we are surrounded by stereotypes that things done in Africa or by Africans are always lacking “something”…maybe a sort of professionalism or accuracy. It is sad to admit that most Africans don’t often take time to think through their processes or take time to listen to their clientele and adjust their processes.
As a proud true African, I have come to dislike shoddy work done by Africans as it usually confirms that Africans can’t be quality oriented. I am a strong believer that we have the same capacity as others to do extremely well in any field we chose to be in.
I remember one of the first remarks I received some five years ago when we started publishing the ServiceMag. How can we put such quality in a free magazine? And my answer has always been the same. “If it must be done, then it must be quality”.
I am aware of the challenges of maintaining quality standards in our environment because we rely on so many external factors. But no matter the business we find ourselves in, it is paramount we set standards and adhere to them.
Operating without standards is like sailing without knowing exactly where you want to go. Obviously, we cannot set standards if we don’t have a clear image of where we want to go. Setting standards can be personal or organizational. Setting standards on a personal level helps one refuse to compromise.
Organizational standards are very important in any business plan because they guide managerial decision-making. If you want to create reachable objectives, you need to understand where you stand, where you want to go, and who you are competing with. If you set standards for your enterprise, it defines how you should act to create an effective business strategy.
One example of setting and maintaining standards for your enterprise is to define systems of getting feedback from customers. Do you understand for instance that a customer’s complaints are free suggestions for you to improve your services?
Some years ago, we went to try out a new restaurant that had just opened. Unfortunately, we were very disappointed and met the owner to tell her. Rather than being thankful for our feedback, she took this very badly. I was not surprised when I passed there some months later and the place had closed down and another restaurant had taken its place. The new Indian owner knew exactly what he needed to do to maintain his clients.
Most African enterprises die within a short period of time because they do not always take time to evaluate themselves. A Tool like the SWOT analysis (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) usually helps to understand where a business stands.
As Africans, we should always have values, beliefs and goals and learn to promote a positive brand image in all that we do. Let us set standards for our work, behavior and dealings with one another. No matter how challenging it is, let us stick to the values that define us as excellent brand names for our countries and continent.
The author is Customer Service Consultant and the Founder of The ServiceMag