by Pamela Nyabadza of Sunday Mail
CUSTOMER service, particularly in an environment where the economy continues to groan under multiple pressures, is a rarity, but Government and private organisations are currently making conscious efforts to improve service provision by consumer-facing businesses.
The Contact Centre Association of Zimbabwe, a non-profit-making national body that is trying to grow standards and ensure global excellence, has since established the Service Excellence Awards as part of an annual event driven to help companies improve the quality of service delivery. Other flagship events include the International Customer Service Week and the Call Centre Conferences that continue to attract local and international participants every year.
Government believes that customer service plays a crucial role in growing local businesses and developing various sectors of the economy.
Speaking at the recent Service Excellence Awards, the Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Mr Francis Nhema, who was standing in for the senior Minister of State in the President's Office, Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo, said the country's economy critically depended on customer services and Government is committed to protect the rights of consumers. The launch of the Consumer Protection Bill was, thus, an indication of Government's commitment, he noted.
"Customer service and good service delivery are catalysts for economic and social growth in Africa. As Government, we are totally committed to see the Zimbabwean consumers being protected and their interests upheld, and the launch of the Consumer Protection Bill is a clear testimony of that commitment.
"When the Bill is finally enacted into an Act of Parliament, Zimbabwean consumers will be fully cushioned against exploitation and other unjust trade malpractices," he said.
Government claims that the country's tourism sector is doing fairly well as the country offers unique and sophisticated customer service that is favourable to tourists from around the world.
Zimbabwe was recently voted as the global tourist destination of choice.
Last month, Government finished drafting the Consumer Protection Bill, a precursor to the establishment of a Consumer Court and a Consumer Protection Commission. The Commission's functions will include co-ordinating and networking consumer activities, promoting fair business practices and protecting consumers from unreasonable and unjust trade practices.
Also, the Consumer Court is expected to help enforce the rights of the consumer, including serving as a court of record.
CCAZ patron Mr Herbert Nkala said SEA had been expanded to also cover Small and Medium Enterprises as they also interface with consumers. Economists argue that the bulk of local economic activity is now being handled by SMEs.
"There is stiff competition among companies as many of them now provide healthy consumer service. Many companies are awarded for their good work in consumer care and we could not leave out those in small businesses, the Small and Medium Enterprises as they also practise consumer service when they do their business," he said.
The awards covered categories that range from air transport, grocery retail, fast foods, education, real estate, automobile, banking, service station and telecommunications.
Over 200 delegates from several business sectors attended SEA this year.
Prominent individuals that were considered to be the most influential in customer service were the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Eng Walter Mzembi; the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Harare Metropolitan Province, Ms Miriam Chikukwa; and Zimra commissioner-general Mr Gershom Pasi.
Integrated Properties scooped the Customer Service Excellence Award — Best in Real Estate Sector category, while Econet Wireless scooped two awards after being voted the telecommunication company with good consumer service and the best call centre. Other companies which also won awards were Toyota Zimbabwe, which claimed the best automobile company with good consumer service; Moonlight funeral parlour; DHL, Safeguard, CBZ bank, Zimra and Rainbow Tourism Group.