The New Times (Kigali)

25 February 2013

Rwanda: Customer Care - Often Preached, Seldom Practised

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"Customers today want the very most and the very best for the very least amount of money, and on the best terms. Only the individuals and companies that provide absolutely excellent products and services at absolutely excellent prices will survive" Brian Tracey.

Competition in the market out there is too tough to be ignored. Only the people who know their customers' needs will survive. There is a need to get out of where we are and compete in the market place. If you think you are doing well, you are probably wrong until you talk to your customers. One key strategy for survival in today's competitive environment is that you must make it your mission to discover the path in order to get out of your current situation. If we need to change the situation, we need to first know the way. Know our services, know our customers, know our products, and there we are on the path to improvement.

Along the way, listening to our customers' needs is going to be a very useful tool. Here, we are able to provide according to their needs and this will help us beat the competition in the market space.

The other day, a friend narrated a story about a situation where she had to close a bank account due to poor services rendered. She could not get the service, and could not get anyone willing to offer the service that she badly needed. Ironically, she got all attention after it dawned on the bank's management that she was closing her account. This should have been done earlier.

How can we prepare the younger generation to provide better customer service? Homes and schools should be the environment where we learn most of these skills. It is from such institutions where we acquire such behaviour and skills into the market world.

You have seen situations where you walk into a shop and the attendant does not even turn to look at you. Do you think this person is better at home? No, we depict in our workplace what we are at home or how we were brought up. The younger generation needs to be prepared before through books, mentorship programmes and most importantly by imitating what the old people do.

Children learn more by examples than lectures. Don Odunze, in his book Successful Family Living asserts that "men expect their sons to follow their footsteps yet these sons never get to see their fathers." How can you follow the footsteps of a person you have never seen walk in front of you? He adds that fathers are busy with work, friends, etc; they have never played with their children and they do not know their needs.

These children go to school and are taught how to pass exams. From graduation, they get a job and are expected to take care of customers, an area they are not experienced in. What do you expect from such a person? Remember the old saying, "Charity begins at home?" I do not think it has been replaced by another.

Now, with all these challenges, we still have a market that has become so competitive, and we still have to perform. You either perform or you give way. How do we manage? How can we equip our selves?

We need to know where the business is, where the market is and where the customers are. M.R. Kopmeyer says; 'do not sit and wait "go where the business is, the money is, the people are, the action is, and go where the fun is. Nothing will find you in your comfort zone.

As I conclude, I want to say this. When parents have failed, and teachers too, and you are in a certain position somewhere, and you are reading this article, you are already an adult enough to know what you want and how to get it. I will borrow from Peter Kasenene's words; "you are an adult, and a free person, do not be an escapist who blames others for the type of life you live or for your actions. You should take credit for who you are and what you do, and also accept blame for what you do, if it is not right. You're what you do. Whether your parent, your teachers, your bosses, none is responsible for your actions.

Know the needs of your customers, give the customer service required, or leave the position for the person who knows what the market wants.

The writer is an educationist, author and publisher.

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