AS the Tanzania economy becomes more and more services based, the need to have good customer care skills becomes increasingly important.
It is for this reason that some companies basing on this, have started investing more and more on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is business management software that allows an organisation to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business.
ERP software integrates all facets of an operation, including product planning, development, manufacturing processes, sales and marketing.
According to the webopedia website, ERP software typically consists of multiple enterprise software modules that are individually purchased, based on what best meets the specific needs and technical capabilities of the organisation.
Each ERP module is focused on one area of business processes, such as product development or marketing. Some of the more common ERP modules include those for product planning, material purchasing, inventory control, distribution, accounting, marketing, finance and human resources.
As the ERP methodology has become more popular, software applications have emerged to help business managers implement ERP into other business activities and may also incorporate modules for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and business intelligence and present them as a single unified package.
A typical example of a company that has decided to adopt ERP technologies is The Living Room which is now trading as TLR Eclectic, for the record it was never closed down or under new management.
To ensure an unparalleled customer experience TLR Eclectic has invested in its IT programmes and engineered a state of the art ERP system (Enterprise Resource Planning) to streamline its internal processes, and build a robust customer database so that anyone purchasing at the showrooms is assured a seamless experience from selection through delivery and set-up.
That means no more waiting endlessly for Pro Forma invoices to be drawn up, an easy access to knowing what's in stock, ability to special order on demand, quick price quotes, and each shopper has their own customer profile - a lifetime history of TLR purchases and preferences.
"We have to be treating each other the way we would want to be treated; that means with professionalism and respect so that a peaceful, happy environment is the norm," Amish Kanabar, one of the directors at TLR said.
To follow through on that vision, TLR has invested in their employees, creating and offering trainings for their sales staff, craftsmen and women, delivery staff, junior staff and senior leadership so that each person can identify with what it means for their position to get it right.
"Everyone is learning what it means to Get It Right for their customers, from receptionists on the phone to individuals sweeping the workshop floors," the TLR Eclectic Managing Director, Mr Nishit Kanabar explained. Mr Kanabar said that it was a huge undertaking and an ongoing curriculum but they believed they cannot do without saying that it was their way of protecting their value chain.
He said that noting that each time an employee has contact with a customer, supplier, or other employee, there's an opportunity to practice the art of Getting It Right, and that means different activities for different positions within the organisation and therefore that need for each group to be afforded the appropriate training.
"We believe that the payoff is huge - mostly because when people get formal training they feel more productive and know their contribution will affect the whole company in a positive way.
We want to be the company everyone wants to be part of because they feel good coming to work," Mr Kanabar noted. Recently TRL rebranded promising to give Tanzanians a rare opportunity to have custom made furniture and a new premises where people no longer have to be experts when choosing what furniture to put where in their homes but to let one's imagination take control.
"The rebranding allows people to be confident in choosing what they want and the products in the store that range from sofa sets, mattresses, beds, office furniture, safes, doors to lamps help the buyer be creative," he said.
Mr Kanabar said that in the two months that they have been preparing for the opening, they have also invested significantly in their human resource where all 70 plus employees have received certified training. He said that the management believes in working together where customer service starts from within the organisation.
Fashion local designer icon Sheria Ngowi has been picked as the TLR Brand Ambassador where the two will work together in promoting a fashion forward design aesthetic while exploring trends and their translation and cross pollination in Tanzanian culture.
"What we will be doing is to encourage Tanzanians to be proud of what is their own. It may be difficult to believe but many of the items in the store are used with local raw materials and made by local craftsmen.
We want to do away with the notion that everything good comes from abroad," he said. There are high hopes of the furniture industry in the country to be a windfall business and this was evident when the Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Ms Saada Salim Mkuya two months ago said that that the government was determined to ensure procurement of locally made furniture started effectively in this fiscal year.
This comes after the government decision to agree to procure all furniture domestically, with the views of boosting small scale entrepreneurs and scale up economic growth. "Procuring local made furniture is one of the government efforts to cut down expenditures, its implementation therefore is of paramount importance," she was quoted to have said.
The Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Dr William Mgimwa was also recently quoted to have said that procurement of locally made furniture will be a fundamental milestone in building capacity of local manufacturers and would contribute significantly to boosting individual and national incomes.
However, poor working tools, capital deficiency, lack of creativity and limited market opportunities are some of the key impediments that hinder the progress of local furniture makers. As a result, the huge market for furniture is flooded with imported substandard carpentry products.
In 1993, The Living Room opened its doors in Dar es Salaam showcasing imported home furnishings. It was the first of its kind, establishing the brand as a leader in the industry.
Today, two decades later, with the dramatic increase in multinational presence in Tanzania, need for the home and office furniture sector is on the rise and the competitive landscape changes almost daily. TLR Eclectic has continued to grow, with stores in six locations throughout Tanzania including one in Mwanza.