Elleafrique likes to feature interviews on african women around the world who are doing amazing things for themselves and others. Elleafrique got up close and personal with one of those women.
EA: Who is Sandra Idossou?
Sandra: I am a consultant, a trainer, a mystery shopper, a writer, an author, a communicator, a publisher, a wife, a mum and a seasonal visual artist with companies in Ghana, Bénin, Rwanda and Burundi. I am very passionate about everything on Excellent Quality Service, Hospitality, Branding, Sales & Marketing, Communication, Consumers rights, Personal development, Capacity Building especially among youth and entrepreneurs. My first company worked in Bénin and Ghana and specialised in customer relationship, sales and marketing and personal image training. Our clients were banks, hotels, insurance companies, restaurants, travel agencies and airlines.
My second company was created in 2009 in Rwanda and specializes on Customer Service Training, Sales and Marketing Trainings, Mystery Shopping and Marketing Research. My third company, the Service Mag, publishes a free educative business magazine in Rwanda and Burundi aimed at providing hands-on articles to business owners and top managers and supporting them in becoming more competitive. We also consult on corporate communication, branding and social media. I have trained people in more than 21 African countries and have travelled across 31 countries in Africa and in 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. I have become an advocate for capacity building and anything than can brand positively our dear continent. My best quote is “Knowledge is Power” and “If you have knowledge, let others light their candle in it”. I am a strong believer of Africa’s potential and a great advocate of all things “African”
EA: Why is customer service so important?
Sandra: It is no secret to anyone that customer service still remains a big issue in many organizations whether small or big, even though customer service is the lifeblood of any thriving business. It’s proven that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep the satisfaction and loyalty of an existing customer. This is a fact. If service providers improve on their systems and their ways of treating their customers, they will see a real positive impact on their bottom line. As customers and even as business owners; should we just sit and complain? Should we continue to murmur about the lack of skills of service people? Should we comfort ourselves into thinking that good service is not possible in our country? Are we just waiting for a miracle to happen? Should we continue thinking that service improvement is a sole responsibility of government? Service is all about dealing with customers. It boils down to the attitude of the staff. We all know that the state of professionalism of people in the service industry in most countries is just undergoing development. The skills gap is so high that business owners just employ anyone they find who fits even just half the bill.
EA: Would you say that Africans in general don’t take customer service as a priority?
Sandra: Its true Africa has many challenges. Ignorance is a real disease. Many Africans do not understand the value of good service. Good service pays and its time companies invest in it through training their teams and offering conducive working environments and systems that will enable them reach the level of service that is expected of them. As Africans, we all have a responsibility in changing the level of service we receive. Accepting poor service is not a way of improving things. Lets all refuse poor service, whether it is in a public or private institution.
EA: Tell us about the ‘Service Mag‘.
Sandra: The whole idea of doing an educative magazine, The Service Mag, started with the numerous feedback and comments I was receiving when I was writing the weekly Monday articles in The New Times Rwanda. For two years, I had extraordinary responses from readers because I could criticize and offer solutions. Also, as a trainer, I have always marveled at the excitement on people’s faces after attending my trainings. For these two reasons, I started the magazine. Initially, it was a hobby since writing is a passion of mine. I knew nothing about publishing and thought I could do it simply with my passion for writing. The reception we got from the first 2 issues was simply overwhelming. It was actually after those first six months, that we decided to really take it serious and registered the magazine as an educative, free, business magazine that publishes in 3 languages. I wanted a magazine of great quality with appealing images and value added content, that will draw in consumers and increase our readership. Our writing, photography, design and layout meet international standards.
Getting advertisers is also a challenge. We need over twenty advertising companies to publish and distribute an issue for free.
Almost five years now, The Service Mag has grown into a fully fledged business magazine and is without any doubt, the most sought-after magazine in Rwanda. For 9 months now, we have started publishing in Burundi and our plan of becoming a regional magazine is in full gear. Education has always meant a lot to me. Offering free knowledge to our readers is what keeps me moving. Sharing knowledge and information is key to contributing in our continent’s development.
EA: On top of running a business, you are a mother, wife and painter? How do you balance it all?
Sandra: I have come to understand that as women we are capable of so much. The only challenge we have is that we don’t give ourselves the time to discover the talents we have. Of course there are challenges but as women we can handle them. Just like we handle a family, we can also handle a business. We are like sponges; we know how to absorb difficulties. Women are capable of anything, they just need to believe in themselves. Dream it and you will achieve it. Obviously, my life is full of challenges as a mother, wife and entrepreneur. But I guess that is what we all go through so my case is not an isolated one. I love all components of my life and always need to make sure each of them gives me much joy as possible.
EA: Who is your ideal african woman role model and why?
Sandra: My mom and my mother in law. Two strong women around me. They have both been industrious women. I still remember when my Mum was struggling to import goods from Germany. She was in a line of business for men and she put all her heart and energy in it. My mother in law worked twenty years again even after she retired as a teacher and school head mistress.
EA: What’s your message to african business women or those who want to go into business?
Sandra: Passion is the most important ingredient everyone needs to go into business. Without it, we lose it when things become difficult. For women, getting also the right people to surround yourself with is important.
EA: How do you relax?
Sandra: I am an energetic person and usually find it hard just to sit and relax. I always have to be doing something. During my leisure time, I cook, do interior decoration, swim, paint and extensively use social media. I am a passionate person and tend to put a lot of energy even in my hobbies. Writing, painting, swimming, walking, cooking, being with my family are all some of my passions that help me relax.
ElleAfrique congratulates Sandra Idossou on her achievements so far and we are looking forward to seeing her soar in the future!