When I started receiving my work anniversary messages on LinkedIn, I was reminded that it’s been eleven years since I opened my first training and consulting company on Customer Service. The journey has been challenging but rewarding in so many ways…hold on, I have not yet become a Billionaire, neither have I been fortunate (yet) to be featured in the prestigious pages of Forbes Magazine.
My story is one of passion and optimism to improve the level of service delivery in Africa. It started in 2000 when I became a trainer going round over twenty-seven African countries preaching the good news of Service Excellence and Quality Standards.
I still remember the level of service in Rwanda when I first came to train the staff of the then “Novotel Umubano” managed by the Accor Hospitality Group. In 2007 my husband accepted a job offer to work in Rwanda and I followed him with my dreams, determination and zeal to make an impact in this beautiful land of a thousand hills.
The peculiar component of my work on educating, sensitizing and raising awareness about the importance and benefits of Customer service is that the Government of Rwanda embarked on a campaign to raise the level of service in the country at that time.
As a proud African, it breaks my heart that the general perception or mindset most Africans have is that everything “Quality” or “Excellence” cannot be African. Recently during an interesting conversation, a friend said that it is utopic to believe that service excellence is achievable in Africa because the continent is faced with many urgent challenges. Who says that we cannot develop our continent by tackling the issue of poor service as we deal with our numerous other challenges?
In Rwanda, we talk, criticize and demand good service. Through the platforms of The ServiceMag www.theservicemag.com, we name and shame service providers, whether they are government or private. We organise events to train and sensitize service providers on Customer Service. I have even offered some training sessions for the Rwanda National Police on Customer Service. In Rwanda when a citizen doesn’t get water or electricity for several days, he/she is able to tweet and get a response. The sense of accountability in all areas of service has helped the country to be where it is today in terms of development.
When I took to social media in Congo Brazzaville recently, to complain about a service centre of an Internet provider that could not give accurate information about their poor services, I was made to understand that I was making too much noise.
And that is exactly where I have an issue. Why should Africans keep quiet about poor services they receive? Why is it normal for us not to be demanding? How can we improve the level of service, if mediocre service is what we all accept especially on services we pay for with our hard-earned money?
I read recently that in most Western countries, service accounts for more than 75% of GDP – a share that will probably continue to increase. I don’t have exact figures for Africa but I know for sure that if Governments and service providers improve the quality of their services, they could have similar results.
Technology has become a major aspect of improving service delivery in several aspects of our lives. Today, service excellence is a differentiator that makes an investor decide to do business in Togo rather than in Bénin, my home country for instance. Obviously, competition is key in raising the level of service in the continent.
How can Africans push for service excellence? Simply by being demanding, refusing poor service all in the name of “We are in Africa”. If your service provider sucks, no need to remain there, change and look for better service.
Service attitudes and aptitudes are attributes that help sustain brands, companies or a country’s image. Try hospitality, health, education, banking, airlines in Africa and you will agree with me that improving service delivery is a pre requisite for our development as a continent.
Harvey Firestone says that the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. We can all be leaders in different ways, but in my opinion, the best leadership is being able to impact on people’s knowledge and development and that is why I am extremely proud of this milestone of sensitizing for good service delivery in Africa.
My wish is that when my son is older, he will not need to travel outside the continent to get quality education. I hope Africans get quality healthcare in our hospitals where even our leaders will not need to travel outside to be treated.
I want to believe in that Africa and would want you to join me to demand, give and receive high quality services. You and I can shape that image. We can change that narrative. Africa is beautiful, rich, resourceful and its people are able to offer the same level of service offered in other parts of the world.
By Sandra Idossou