"Kalibu", we say in Zambia as we welcome you into our homes and hearts. We welcome you with the spirit that a guest is the most important person in the home. We will share our very last meal, our very last drink, our very last item of clothing or even sleep on the floor to give a guest our own bed to make them feel comfortable. It's simply just what we do. This same spirit simmers through several African countries whose cultures I am so proud to call my own.
So one would think that the spirit of "Kalibu" that has been ingrained in our very being from childhood would trickle into every walk of life right?
Well in the business world, sadly, no. I love my gorgeous little country Zambia but we need a customer service revolution.
The following are a few of the issues that I think need addressing:
1. The queue:
The humidity of a stranger's breath undulating down the back of my neck as I queue patiently in a bank. Yes Lusaka, Kitwe the same uncomfortable experience. I appeal to my fellow people to respect the notion of personal space, for hygiene reasons at the very least if not simply as a courtesy to your fellow customer. Trust me, you will not get to the counter any faster by breathing down my neck.
Then there are those establishments that don't enforce a queue at all or choose to continue to serve people that have no respect for a queue. This is something that companies need to take a lead on to ensure that their customers have a good experience and will keep coming back to their establishments. Do not, under any circumstances, serve anybody that does not have the courtesy to wait patiently in line. This only perpetuates the poor behaviour of some customers and creates a poor image of your business. Every customer deserves equal respect so wait your turn and the respect will be given back to you a hundred fold.
2. The smile, the welcome, the hello "Kalibu"
Beautiful Zambian women, my wonder at your brilliance shall never waver but please put on a smile to compliment that pretty face!
I have heard this several times and never believed it till I experienced it myself. I enter your store, no hello, no good afternoon, no how can I help you.... I ask for help and I get a sour facial expression that seems to imply that my bringing my money to your business is somewhat an inconvenience to you. Have you ever wondered why some people never come back to your store?
This is not just the ladies by the way. Gentlemen do it too. The disregard of the presence of a customer is unacceptable and if we are to succeed in business this must change.
How you make a person feel when they come to seek a service from you will determine whether they come back next time, whether or not they refer you to their friends so you have more customers or whether they will walk out, never come back and tell all their friends to never bother coming to your store.
It certainly is your choice.... But I know there are only so many customers you can afford to lose so make your choice wisely.
3. The perception of status:
Societal status is part of living in a community. How people perceive you in society is bound to affect how they treat you. But I believe a good business is one that treats all customers equally because the one Kwacha spent by a 10 year old schoolboy is the same one Kwacha spent by a 60 year old struggling retiree and the same one Kwacha spent by the 30 year old millionaire.
Let's discuss the following:
Respecting one's elders is one thing but choosing to ignore someone because they appear younger and thus choosing to serve an older person first when the younger was next in line is not acceptable. One is no less important than the other...."First come" should indeed be "First served".
So you got married..... Congratulations..... chances are you were not the first and definitely will not be the last. In fact, I can bet money that this coming Saturday there is a wedding happening in your local community right? So do you consider the person you were a year before you got married someone less deserving of respect? Was the Kwacha you spent back then any less valuable than the one you spend today? (Depreciation excepted of course:) I don't think so. So why then do some businesses and community groups seem to treat unmarried persons with less respect? Ponder that for a second and take a look around you the next time you are out in public. Perhaps you too will consider how unacceptable this is.
4. The inferiority complex, the lighter, the whiter, the more important. ( the unspoken killer of our dignity)
This topic is so close to my heart and I never realised what an issue it was until I was fortunate to visit a western Caucasian country.
Why do I get to a restaurant in my gorgeous Zambian cities and receive poor unacceptable service but then, like magic, a Caucasian (white) person walks in, and they receive gold star service with a smile? This makes me very angry because what message does that send to my children and to yours? Is my gorgeous chocolate daughter any less of a person than a white person? And how can we as a people demand respect from other countries and other races when we consistently show them that we hold less value for people who look like us?
A lot of this behaviour is not intentional I know but nevertheless it is unacceptable. We are equal. Let's act like we are equal. Let's act like we are black and proud of who we are. Think of how you would feel if someone treated your own mother like she deserved anything less than the best. If I treat a white customer like a king I should treat a black customer like a king.... It's that simple.
I shall leave you to consider these sentiments. I challenge my fellow Zambians to start a "Kalibu" Good Rumour movement. The next time you receive exceptional service with a smile, post it on Facebook or any other social media platform as an encouragement to other businesses to do the same. Let's crowd out the bad with good positive stories of our nation.
I will start my "Kalibu" Good Rumour Movement by Thanking the young lady at Takina Hair Dynamic at Manda Hill shopping centre in Lusaka for the exceptional service you gave me in December last year when I was looking for Braid spray. I will definitely come back and would recommend your store to anyone looking for hair products and hair product advice.
Finally, I leave you with this thought, the late great Dr Maya Angelou famously said,"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
So I dare you Zambia to make people feel good every time they walk into your shop, supermarket, government office, school, hospital or any other business. Let's show everyone an equal level of respect and courtesy. Let's honour the spirit of "Kalibu" and make them want to come back to you.