After just five short years, the Chartered Institute of Customer Management (CICM)’s Service Excellence Awards (SEA) have firmly established themselves as an important initiative in the sub-Saharan African region that celebrates businesses across the continent that are efficient, friendly and approachable.
By Lenox Mhlanga
The SEA were launched in Zimbabwe in 2012 by the Contact Centre Association of Zimbabwe (CCAZ) and the CICM. The concept of the awards was later expanded in the same year to capture African markets and promote service excellence across Africa.
This year, the awards were held recently where Ambassador Mary Mubi, the senior principal director for public affairs and knowledge management in the Office of the President and Cabinet, was honoured as Customer Service Personality of the Year.
The CICM also launched the National Customer Satisfaction Index (NCSI) this year, which was the main highlight of the Customer Service Week, an international event celebrated worldwide during the first week of October.
The SEA provide African businesses across all sectors with a platform on which to maintain, develop and sustain customer service levels and satisfaction to the highest of standards.
Most SEA are attracting an average of 400 delegates per event. This year Zimbabwe and Swaziland had more than 450 delegates, a testimony of their growing popularity.
“The awards are not just a pat on the back or a quick ego boost. They help to heighten a company’s reputation. Better yet, they help employees take pride in their work and instil confidence in customers about the quality and professionalism of the specific organisation,” said Tinashe Karimanzira, the marketing and events coordinator of the CCIM.
He said when one gets to traverse the continent or the world, they realise that exceptional customer service is still quite uncommon, therefore it should be celebrated and rewarded.
In this vein, key events around the SEA have been expanded into Africa since 2012.
CICM launched the Zambia Institute of Customer Management (ZICM) in 2013,where there was an encouraging turnout and critical reviews setting pace for adoption in countries where the CICM was establishing presence. In the same year Zimbabwe celebrated the second edition of the SEA.
In 2014, the third edition of the SEA was held in Zimbabwe, while Zambia hosted its first.
CICM made plans to roll out SEA with country partners in Rwanda, Tanzania, Botswana in 2015. During that year, the awards were held in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia and Uganda.
Last year, SEA was launched in Swaziland through IRDM Swaziland, the country partner.
2017 and Beyond — CICM has a vision to spread the SEA to the rest of southern Africa, including launching regional and continental SEA, something which has been pencilled for 2018.
The SEA have become the flagship of the CICM, generating a lot of interest and shedding light on service excellence in all the countries that are represented.
The nationwide survey showcased all the sectors in the industry and how individual companies were rated against each other. This was also used as input to the prestigious SEA.
“We are rolling out the same NCSI in different countries across Africa to enable the benchmarking of data which is key for government, investors and other stakeholders,” said CICM’s CEO Ricky Harris.
According to Rinos Mautsa, a member of the CCAZ and CICM board — who have been instrumental in the execution of the SEA concept across the continent — the awards selection process was rigorous and it included an online survey and physical distribution of questionnaires in major towns across the respective countries.
This is followed by local experts comprising academics, auditors and researchers who also sit down to adjudicate the research results before the eventual announcement of the winners.
The SEA are poised to become a key catalyst in improving the competitiveness in customer service, mostly in sub-Saharan African countries, where these awards have made a significant impact over the years.
According to CICM, upcoming country awards for the year 2018 will be held in Malawi, Tanzania, Nigeria, Botswana, Rwanda and Ghana among others.