Living the Little Dream[19] – Are customers the big boss in Kenya?

The sun was beating down like a furnace with no breeze to lighten its fiery breath. We arrived at Electronics Mama (made-up name) with a sweat soaked shirt and energy completely sapped away by the intense heat. As we enter this same store for the third time this week, our designated sales agent Alex came to greet us with a big smile on his face, handing us a bottle of chilled water from their functioning display fridge.

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We finally placed our long list of electronic appliances order which included a TV, fridge, vacuum cleaner, microwave, washing machine and clothes iron (total value of approx. $2,000 USD) with Alex. Interestingly, before its delivery, the Kenyan teams of sales will one-by-one enthusiastically open up your purchased items just like Christmas Boxing Day. Slowly and carefully, they will provide you with a demonstration of each of appliances. This involved providing a TV show viewing, heating up some water in the microwave and even testing out the vacuum cleaner by cleaning a carpet!

As the team was busy doing a show-and-tell about our new electronic appliances, we asked if the store sold any battery for the new electronic fly swatter we had bought before entering the store. Whilst they did not sell any in-store, our most helpful agent sent out one of their staff to make a purchase for us! By this point in time, we already felt like we were treated as the royal family’s king and queen. Whilst such experience can often be spotted in Kenya with small businesses targeting high-end customers, it is not always the case otherwise. In fact, typical customer service experience in Kenya is almost always the contrary.

Customer experience in Kenya range all the way from horror stories to very difficult situations, to dull treatment from bored, overworked looking staff across various sectors of the market. I have never heard a “thank you” from public transport conductors, neither have I seen waiters who try make up in their servicing after an hour long wait for the food.

No doubt, customer service is driven by its business leaders’ commitment to its level of excellence. I must commemorate the level of care given to customers by this small electronic store in Nairobi. It appears that large corporates in Kenya have a lot to learn from small business owners for their exemplary customer service.