The Customer Care Ghost in Uganda.

Let us talk about Ugandan run businesses. So much has been said on why they fail. Ranging from high taxation to lack of business research, lack of capital and so on. All these I totally agree to contribute to the business failure. However, there’s one factor that is usually ignored, that I think is of utmost importance. This is the attribute of customer care. I strongly believe that so many businesses fail due to the poor attitudes and nonexistent customer care awareness among staff and business owners.

This thought has resurfaced this week as we encountered an interesting situation. So, our organization runs workshops for our implementing partners every year. This time we set out to prepare for the workshop much earlier than we usually do. We wanted to have everything well planned considering that it is an orientation of our partners on our new 5-year Strategic Plan. In addition, since we are interfacing with new partners, we had agreed that this time around, even the staff be accommodated at the hotel to have more bonding time.  Our team set out to book for accommodation, conference facilities 3 weeks ago at this well-marketed hotel. The Hotel gave assurance that they had up to 200 rooms and therefore accommodating our under 70 people wouldn’t be a challenge at all. Confidently we booked and paid 75% upfront so that the hotel can prepare.

On the day of check-in, stories began. We found that there were no rooms for everyone and instead the hotel was relocating some people to the another ‘sister hotel’ (whose rates are lower than what we had paid for) 3km away.  The conference room that we had booked had also been given to another ‘bigger organization.’ What startles me most is the attitude they are giving us even as they communicate their ineptitude. Later we have learned that there are three other organizations that had booked to hold meetings in this same period, and the hotel had also given them assurance. Like us, these organizations are in this quagmire. I don’t know what to make of this!

Here’s my appeal to my countrymen and women who opt for business especially service related business that emotionally connects to people. Before we complain about all the issues frustrating our businesses that are a responsibility of everyone else but ourselves,  let us learn a few things about customer care.  Here are some few lessons I have learned over time;

  • First and foremost, invest in customer care training for your team/staff. Some of them that you place in your small IGAs or growing business don’t have an idea about the sweat you go through to get business flowing your way. This is why they treat your customers any way they want, after all, they will get their pay at the designated time. Take time to train your team in good customer retention tactics. You will be surprised at how simple these things are. If in doubt, ask the Indian man.
  • When you market your services/products, you need to hold your promise. Granted, you may get a few clients due to your good publicity and social media engagement. To sustain this flow, you will need to keep that promise you are giving.  Please don’t give us dry beans after you have promised fresh beans, and justify it by saying they are all beans. We shall leave, some of us after putting a word out about your fake promises.
  • Do not think you are doing any of us a favor. In as much as we may need your service/product, we have survived without getting it from you. Having this in mind will change your perspective. You will value your customers for choosing you instead of seeing it the other way round. It is not a guarantee that they should.
  • Avoid the ‘arrivism’ mentality where you think that you have attained your highest level of success, therefore, you should start being arrogant. The only constant thing in life is change. Things can change so fast, and you will be left with your dying ’empire’.
  • The Indian man has mastered one thing; the customer is king. For as long as you need your business to continue in existence, keep this as one of your motivations.

This list is not exhaustive but these are a few things I have observed that can make a difference. Am sure there are many more that you may identify with. Feel free to share in comments.

As for our friends here at the hotel, things are suddenly taking a turn after our Finance Manager advised that they would not be getting a full 25% of the remaining payment, after all, they have not kept their part of the bargain. Suddenly, rooms are starting to be available, a little too late though. Avoid such situations.

Customer care is not a department, it is an attitude.

Go Change Uganda!

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