“We need customer service!” Everywhere I go in Rwanda, that's what I hear. All of our Fast Runners clamor for help. “For my business to succeed, my employees need to know how to best serve our customers;” “Everyone in my company must make this a priority;“ ”If Rwanda is going to compete on the world stage... become an IT hub... a tourist destination... we must learn how to keep our customers happy."
So what’s a little pressure, mixed with jet lag and a significant language barrier? Is it going to to deter this humble customer service volunteer from shining the light? This blog says I’m an expert on the subject. This should be a simple request, yes? For those who know how difficult it is to deliver consistent, world class service in the United States, you know the request is anything but!
But what the heck. I did not travel all this way to catch up on sleep or take a language class. So I jump in with an open heart, a pure intention, and my bag of tricks.
Every session starts out the same. We all vigorously agree that a warm, open welcome is the first step in making the customer experience. We do a little role play, in which I ask the participants to greet me as they'd greet a new customer. Warm, open? The voice is so quiet I can hardly hear it. The eyes are cast toward the floor. And no one wants to introduce themselves to the customer.
Man, I’ve got my work cut out for me. But glimmers of hope emerge:
Harriet and Jeanne’s beauty salon staff (above) have an “Aha!” moment about teamwork. A receptionist letting others know when she steps away from her desk will ensure that another colleague will assume the greeting responsibilities until she returns.
Soline and staff at the Saint Paulia Landscaping learn how to really listen and ask questions to get at their customers' needs. We talked about how they can use their expertise and knowledge to provide WOW customer experiences.
Pascasie, owner of Sugira Suri Beverage distribution, wants her business to become the most trusted delivery service in Kigali. However, her loaders and drivers sometimes drink some of the product that is supposed to go to the customer! (Pascasie and her team, above.) I try to help the staff learn how to value their product. We stand in a circle as I hold up a bottle of beer. I relate the bottle to the work that they do: that the bottle is more than a bottle, but a treasure that must be moved through many hands in order to get to our customer. We pass the bottle to each other while saying “I value my customer.” It feels like a big cultural risk. Would it work? It turned out to be a powerful experience. It seemed to connect: Pascasie said “this training is just what I been hoping for." Whew.
Peggy and her team of freight import clearers learned effective strategies on how to deliver bad news--no more avoiding and excuses!
Then Marie Claire, receptionist for Speciose’s Magazin Alifa’s wedding and party service, provided the most impressive greeting to date. With open arms and warm smile, her voice is confident and her eye contact locked as she says, "Hello. How can I help you?"
The service light begins to shine!
--Bpeacer Stephen Kulovitz, September 2007
Piqued your interest? Read the entire November 2008 Rwanda Mission blog here.