How A Female Entrepreneur Seeks to Transform Customer Service In Rwanda Through Training

One of the most important sectors that is greatly contributing to Rwanda’s economic growth is the service sector (Uwitonze and Heshmati). Despite the challenges brought on by the Covid pandemic, the service sector was the biggest contributor to Rwanda’s gross domestic product, bringing in 48%  to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2022 from 10.8% in 2021 (Iliza). As a landlocked country, Rwanda seeks to transform itself into a service-based hub, which would be contributing to key sub-sectors such as maintenance and repair of motor vehicles, wholesale and retail trade and transport services and services including hotels and restaurants, under two broad categories of trade and transport services (Uwitonze and Heshmati).

The biggest test for Rwanda’s service sector came in June 2022, when Kigali was chosen to host one of the most prestigious global summits, the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). All hands in the hospitality and tourism sector were on deck to ensure delivery of the highest standards of customer delivery. Sue-Elen Ochanda, an expert and trainer in customer service, watched keenly as the preparations were being made. When Rwanda was preparing to host delegates from all over the world for CHOGM, one thing that made a huge impression on Sue-Elen is that the government sent out a list of hospitality standards to maintain to the public that was mostly directed to hospitality providers. One of the requirements on the list was that hospitality staff should not wear torn shirts and that got Sue-Elen so frustrated, because hospitality staff should be aware about these minute but major details, when it comes to hospitality, professionalism and staff grooming. Sue-Elen decided then that she would work on the mindset of the hospitality staff, with the aim of guiding them to start valuing the importance of  treating customers with the utmost professionalism and customer service. Based on a study on the impact of poor customer service on the Rwandan economy, one of the cultural factors that impede development, especially in the service sector, includes, “poor appreciation for the concept of customer service, with service providers providing too little and customers tolerating too much” (Lwakabamba 6). Furthermore, the study pointed out, among other findings, that customers continue to patron businesses with poor service, due to lack of competition. Lwambaka also pointed out that the culture in Rwanda goes against complaining and customers are not aware of the type of service they should expect (8). Another study conducted to investigate the relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction found that the responsiveness of service was one of the biggest factors influencing customer satisfaction (Gihozo and Ernest). Moreover, the study found that “prompt problem solving, helpfulness and effective communication play a crucial role in enhancing guest experiences” (Gihozo and Ernest).

In 2022, Sue-Elen founded Cornerstone Consultancy Services, which provided training in customer care, sales and marketing, customer service and English for business language. Sue-Elen was first inspired in 2020 while she was in a hospitality class at Davis College in Kigali, when the instructor talked about how to build a business by identifying a pain point you see and want to solve for others. Sue-Elen observed that when she patronized different places in Kigali, the customer service was wanting. That was her eureka moment! She settled on focusing on the service sector in Rwanda and elevating the delivery of customer service through training.

“I try to train a team apart and the managers apart, because the managers are the drivers of the change,” Sue-Elen emphasized.

hkonyango

Over the past seven years, I have helped organizations in education, recruitment, corporate training and international affairs to document projects and market products and services through content creation and management, communications outreach and engagement and website and social media management. Along the way, I have developed a strong passion for global development and I seek to use my communication skills in advocating for youth and women socio-economic empowerment, especially in the areas of education, entrepreneurship and employment.

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