With less than a month to go, captains of Rwanda's hospitality industry are mounting concerted efforts to ensure that hotels and restaurants that will receive the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) guests raise their standards of service, products and quality of their amenities.
A recent assessment carried out through a mystery shopping approach, in which experts visited up to 50 top hotels and restaurants, revealed several breaches of expected standards in most of the establishments.
The assessment report, released by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), indicated gaps in staff grooming and professional ethics. In some places, guests were not welcomed and some were not even noticed, at times taking up to 10 minutes to get attention.
Most of the waiters took orders by memory with no captain order or notepad to write them down. In some instances, menus were not even provided. After taking the order, the waiters did not repeat the guest said to ensure that they were accurate.
This has often caused disputes between waiters and guests in many Rwandan hotels and restaurants. Experts say that the cost of poor customer service in the country should be quantifiable to demonstrate how serious the issue is, and that those concerned will address it.
It is not clear why service delivery in the private sector has remained slow despite several campaigns. In March 2012, RDB launched "Na Yombi", a campaign aimed at raising general awareness of customer care with a view to improve service delivery.
At the time, the target was to train at least one million people. Part of the problem is failure to co-ordinate efforts within government agencies, including RDB and Rwanda Governance Board, to improve service delivery.
Moreover, there is lack of consistency in addressing the issue as most customer service campaigns are short-lived and implemented in an ad hoc manner. We need consistency in ongoing efforts to improve customer service, and it should not end after Chogm.
It is important that government institutions strengthen monitoring of customer service delivery including sanctioning businesses that fail to provide good service. The mystery shopping survey by RDB should be done more often, and culprits made to pay hefty fees in order to comply.
More important is raising awareness among the general public to reject poor service. But the public can’t do it alone. They need to be empowered with a law that allows them to reject poor service, and punish businesses for instance by not paying bills where someone feels the service was poor.