Good customer service is so critical to success in all aspects of entrepreneurial life, and therefore the concept and ethos behind Sandra Idossou’s company, The ServiceMag, couldn’t have come at a better time in Africa. She is passionately committed to helping companies and organisations to improve their customer centricity and, as a result, helping to make the continent more customer focused in its entrepreneurial approach.
LoA chatted to the founder of The ServiceMag, Sandra Idossou, this month to find out more about her companies, her business approach and her passion for great customer service.
What does your company do?
The ServiceMag is a Rwandan based company created six years ago with four different offerings: Firstly, we are an educative print and online, free magazine targeted at people working in the service industry. It deals with issues on Human Resources; Customer Service; Sales & Marketing; Finance; Entrepreneurship, etc. The ServiceMag is an insightful, colourful magazine in English, French and Kinyarwanda, with a 5000 copy print run and a dynamic online version. Secondly, we have grown our social media platforms and are able to sensitize, name and shame service providers. We have become the watchdog for good service delivery in both public and private institutions. Thirdly, we offer consulting, mystery shopping and tailor-measured training for service providers. Finally, we have also specialized in delivering Corporate Business events that aim at offering highly conducive knowledge building sessions and networking platforms. Our events draw major stakeholders in the service industry together to discuss issues related to their industries.
"I am a strong believer in Africa's potential and a great advocate of all things 'African'."
"I have always been passionate about two things - customer service and knowledge sharing."
What inspired you to start your company?
I have always been passionate about two things - customer service and knowledge sharing. Prior to opening this company, I have been a trainer for the hospitality industry for six years and I needed a platform where I could share knowledge on excellent service delivery. An educative magazine that helps to equip readers with the right tools to make them offer the best service in their institutions was a great solution.
On a personal level, I am an Afropolitan, Afro-Optmistic hotelier, trainer, mystery shopper, consultant, writer, author, communicator, publisher who has been expatriate in 7 African countries since 2000 (Chad, Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Gabon and Congo). I am very passionate about everything that is Africa - also, Quality of Service, Hospitality, Branding, Sales & Marketing, Communication, Consumers Rights, and Capacity Building, especially amongst youth and entrepreneurs. I have trained people in more than 21 African countries and have travelled across 35 countries in Africa and on all continents. I am a multi-cultured person and speak 7 languages. My numerous travels throughout Africa have made me realize the great opportunities the continent has to offer, and I have become an advocate for anything that can positively brand Africa.
My first company started in Bénin and Ghana and specialises in training for the Hospitality and Service Industry, focusing on customer relationships, sales and marketing, etc. Our Clients are banks, hotels, insurance companies, restaurants, travel airlines. My second company was created in 2009 in Rwanda and specializes in Customer Service Trainings, Sales and Marketing Trainings, Mystery Shopping and Marketing Research. My third company, www.theservicemag.com publishes a free educative business magazine in Rwanda and Burundi aimed at providing hands-on articles to business owners and top managers that support them in becoming more competitive. We also consult on corporate communication, branding and social media.
My best quote is "Knowledge is Power". Tags such as Africa, Tourism, Networking, Business can be used in my daily activities. I am a strong believer in Africa's potential and a great advocate of all things "African"
"I needed a platform where I could share knowledge on excellent service delivery - an educative magazine that helps to equip readers with the right tools to make them offer the best service in their institutions was a great solution."
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Improving service delivery has many benefits. It helps increase customer loyalty - loyalty is derived from repeat customers who spend more money on your business. Loyal customers also become sales-agents as it is proven that word of mouth advertisements work better than any other sorts of advertisement. Loyal customers will work with those institutions which build on a strong brand and safeguard the reputation of their institutions.
Now, why should people read our magazine? Because it is the only educative magazine focused on service delivery with hands-on articles that help readers to upgrade their knowledge.
Tell us a little about your team
We have a team of 12 people of 6 different nationalities. We are a cool team because we have different backgrounds and live in different parts of Africa. The internet helps us work efficiently from different parts of Africa. We are all very passionate about Quality and that is exactly what holds us together. We have writers, editors, translators, photographers, webmaster, accountant, cartoonist, and designers.
"Being an entrepreneur made me realize the enormous resources women have. Women can be good entrepreneurs, wives, mothers etc, all combined in one person."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My Mother was a business woman who was importing second hand cars from Germany to Nigeria via Cotonou, Republic of Benin. I have always seen her work very hard to raise single-handedly not only my brother and myself but also her siblings. I myself became an entrepreneur when I joined my husband in expatriation. Working for myself and contributing in impacting on people's knowledge was very convenient for me as I could work from any part of Africa. Being an entrepreneur made me realize the enormous resources women have. Women can be good entrepreneurs, wives, mothers etc, all combined in one person.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your business?
Running a quality magazine that is distributed for free is one of the most challenging aspect of my business. Today, we do not have a major sponsor and relying solely on advertisements is a constant battle. Often times we are tempted to quit, but seeing the impact of our magazine is a real reward.
"Being an entrepreneur in a foreign country has many challenges and benefits. It is said no one is a prophet in his own land. I have been lucky to work in Rwanda for the last eight years where it is possible to register a company in less than 24hours."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I am hoping to start very soon a regional magazine that will be distributed throughout the five countries of East Africa. I am also hoping one day that our magazine will be distributed throughout Africa. One of my other plans is to become a service index institution where we will be able to rate and rank many service service providers in the region.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Being able to contribute to the knowledge of people. Ignorance is a serious challenge facing Africans and if one way or the other I am able to share more knowledge on issues related not only to business growth but even to personal human development, I would have achieved something.
Social media is an important component of my job and I use it daily to motivate, empower and share knowledge with a large number of people.
"Being open-minded, persistent, able to adjust to many situations have shaped me into the entrepreneur I am today and to maintain my business afloat. Admittedly, I often go through the crisis of "why put in so much time and energy in Rwanda?" But I am very proud of the development happening in Rwanda and want to be part of it... "
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Women are stronger than they think. It is important to believe in oneself and never allow anyone to tell you that you cannot make it. The only person that will accompany you throughout your entire life is yourself so never look down upon that person that is You. Your resources are unlimited. Believe it. Work towards it.
For African women, believe in the continent. Now is our time. Let no one convince us that there is no hope in our continent. Let us just use every opportunity to upgrade our knowledge and always aim at quality in everything we do. Accepting mediocrity because we are Africans will not push us forward. Rather lets aim at perfection because as Vince Lombardi says " Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence. Let excellence therefore guide us.
Contact or follow The ServiceMag
Why LoA loves it….
At LoA, we love those women entrepreneurs who are driven by a sense of improving the way things are done, and that is particularly the case when it comes to customer service on the African continent. Sandra Idossou is making huge strides, working with companies and organisations to improve their approaches to customer services, and publishing great content that connects with all those readers who have an interest in ensuring great service delivery in the country. Africa needs more women like her! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa