The New Times (Kigali)

29 May 2012

Rwanda: Low Pay Responsible for Poor Customer Service

Poor salaries and pitiable motivation of staff are the major constraints behind the ugly face of customer care in the country, an impediment that is believed to deprive the country of millions of dollars in revenues.

"You don't expect a staff member who is underpaid to give great care to a customer," Marie Ange Claudine Ingabire, president of Rwanda Appreciation Services told Business Times in an interview late last week.

A recent survey by World Economic Forum on the regional travel and tourism competitiveness indicated that the country loses over US$ 40 million annually through poor customer. The survey also ranked Rwanda the last in customer care. Policy makers in the country initiated sensitisation campaigns to reverse the situation.

Experts say that employers mainly in the hospitality industry aim at minimising costs to make higher profits by remunerating their employees poorly with no or limited motivation, thereby pushing back morale.

"It's no longer like in the past where this work (hospitality) used to be done by people who failed to go to school. So like other professionals, we need at least money that can help us meet our needs," Deo Mazimpaka, a student of hospitality says.

This comes at a time trade unions advocate for a daily minimum wage of

Rwf2,000 for employees within Kigali city and Rwf1,500 for upcountry workers, citing the increasing cost of living.

In a mini survey targeting the hospitality industry in Kigali especially hotels and restaurants conducted by Business Times, many a staff complained of poor payment. Others criticised the failure by employers to offer their employees food. This, they say, weighs down on staff performance at work.

"We are at times astounded to serve delicious foods to customers but knowing we shall never taste it in out lifetime," laments Clementine Akaliza, a waitress.

The survey findings indicate that the monthly salaries in most of the hospitality facilities range from Rwf15,000-30,000 per month for small restaurants and bars, Rwf40,000- Rwf50,000 for medium restaurants, while those of four, three and two star hotels range from 80,000 to Rwf180,000.

"At least for big restaurants, the payment is a bit favourable and that's why you see change in customer care," Ingabire notes.

"We want to see this also happening in other hotels as the clientele in such hotels are different based on their income levels."

To put to rest the problem, she believes a change of mindset among managers and owners of hospitality businesses would reinvigorate the recent campaign geared towards revamping customer care.

"We need to change the attitude of employers to understand that without good and motivated staff, they cannot attract many customers hence that translates to more profits," she adds

To address various challenges afflicting service delivery, Rwanda Development Board-RBD in March this year launched a campaign seeking to influence behavioural change in both the public and private sectors.

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