Zimbabwe. – News of the South had the opportunity to once again meet a Fellow Mr. Benson Mukandiwa F.CICRMA a unique Customer Service Strategist, management practitioner, internationally published author, training consultant and an erudite scholar.

Mukandiwa was recently conferred a Fellow professional member status by Chartered Institute of Customer Relationship Management Africa (CICRMA); in recognition of his outstanding writings on Customer Relationship Management. The simply looking but practical in action management practitioner remained confident and yet down to earth during the one hour interview on Christmas day at a leading African traditional restaurant in the Metropolitan City of Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe.
Benson Mukandiwa F.CICRMA Certificate

He could not hide his passion or calling to propagate service excellence leadership as he expressed the importance of great customer service and how it can add real value for both clients and business.

Mukandiwa recently emerged as one of outstanding voices and non-fiction business authors on Customer Relationship Management in Africa. News of the South had to discuss in detail with Mukandiwa what the recent conferment of a prestigious Fellow professional membership status meant to his career as a management practitioner or ‘author-preneur’ as he usually describes himself.

See interview below:

Reporter: Good evening and Merry Christmas Sir?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Blessed evening and Merry Christmas to you also!

Reporter: Finally we have met and it seems you have made-up your mind to share with us about your background as Mr. Benson Mukandiwa F.CICRMA.
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Simple! Someone said as champion of purpose one mustn’t make it a habit to reveal your background, you can ask me why; it is because when God deposits something special in a person He does not shout or reveal it until an appointed time. Because if you appear on the arena too early, soon you will disappear. He went on further to say if you unveil your background to everyone you come in contact with you may soon find your back on the ground; because it is human nature be inspired by fear; then seek to destroy what seems to threaten them even when it indirectly benefits them. Even the Lord Jesus Christ to whom this Christmas day is meant to celebrate his birth at one time He said “But if your eye (conscience) be evil ,[a] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” thus (Matthew 6 v 23).It simply means beware of dream killers, henceforth do not always shout about your background, talent and purpose in life, because what people know they seek to destroy what they do not know they call names. That is a fact.

Reporter: Sir Congratulations once again on your recent achievement; to kick start our discussion in few words, who is Mr. Benson Mukandiwa?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Born more than thirty-five years ago, I am by training, by choice, by passion, a champion of purpose, management practitioner, team player, coach and by conviction a born again Christian. I am happily married to my beauty queen Martha and so far God has blessed us with two brilliant sons, King Ethan (7) and King Edric (4); that is what I am most comfortable with for now.

Reporter: Would you mind if you share a bit of your business exposure Sir?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: My business exposure now spanning over a decade and half includes job titles or positions such as General Hand, Data Input Clerk and Stores Clerk thus at lower ranks. At supervisory ranks and above titles includes: Customer Service Supervisor, Administration Supervisor, Warehouse & Logistics Controller, Assistant Branch Manager, Branch Manager, Area Manager, Retail Operations Manager, Head of Retail Internal Audit Operations, Business Development Executive and now Branch Administrator. I have worked in the following industries: a) Hotel and Tourism industry (thus where I discovered my passion for Customer Service Excellence); b) the retail Fast Moving Consumer Goods including retail clothing & fashion, c) the talent development and human capital training (thus were I developed my presentation skills such as boldness and eloquence) and now am proud to be in d) the Life Insurance sector, thus it in brief. To me all these are just life roles with job titles and stepping stones to my next level in life. Now that my personal branding is that of an ‘author-preneur’ and I now know who I am even the sky cannot be my limit, because Christ in me is the Hope of Glory.

Reporter: Mr. Mukandiwa now that you personally branded as an ‘author-preneur’ how have you managed to balance your current and previous job assignments time and your writing time; I believe as a professional you wouldn’t like to find yourself in a situation of issues like, conflict of interest and violation of company copyrights and confidentiality clause; this is just out of interest or maybe you may help someone out there in your situation. Or professional wanting to venture into writing?

Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Through mentorship and observation it has dawned on me that there is a big difference between jobs and work which is talent driven. My job is my current assignment which I have been employed to do within a prescribed set of hours and days in a month. Hence I have to respect my contract of employment. Whereas my talent driven work of authoring is a lifetime deployment, it’s a gift am endowed with from above such that I hardly struggle it is all by His Grace and I cannot boast about it. Many at times I even work up during the midnight watch (thus between 12am to 3am) for at least an hour either to read a life improving book or write down some distilled practical words of wisdom. At times I read up to eight chapters in one hour or write at least half of a thirty-two paged book. After that I go back to sleep. I also make use of my free time to do just simple writing. I have never find myself is such positions of compromise where I either use company resources’ including time to do my authoring projects or pursue other personal programmes. I respect my job time very much. Furthermore on copyright you will notice that I have never mentioned specifically any company by name either my current or past employers. Inversely; because I am a wide reader and researcher this have turned out to be beneficial to my employment assignments and people around me as I have usually become outstanding as an effective Think tank. Thus why I asked this interview to be done after working hours and outside my work premises; since I was on duty today.

Reporter: As a young business management practitioner what would be your advice to an ambitious manager or professional wanting to advance in his/her career life?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Are you an ambitious manager or professional wanting to advance? Or A recent graduate who wants to jumpstart his or her career? Or someone who is paddling faster but is getting nowhere? And or Are you in the midst of finding a new position? This is my simple advice:
a) Brand yourself. Be known by what you do well, not by your job title which can go away quickly.
b) Grow your reputation. It can either pave the way or get in the way of your career success. c) Find work you really enjoy. You’ll be living and working for many years. Make the most of them.
d) Don’t fear failure. Do something every day that keeps you growing personally and professionally.
e) Learn the ropes. Play by the rules of the game until you have some time and achievements under your belt.

Reporter: I have gone through your career profile and you have a history of supervisory and management elixir with your stint in the services industry sectors and this is anchored by a number of professional management courses. Firstly as a young management practitioner what is your management ideology and do you believe whether managers / leaders are born or trained?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: This is rather philosophical isn’t; personally I am yet to see a leader who was not born of a woman, even our Lord Jesus Christ was born in flesh from the womb of his earthly mother Mary.

I firmly believe that all successful managers/leaders are made – not born one already. I firmly ascribe to the principle of mentorship. All successful managers have to go through mentorship at each and every level as they graduated to the next level. The fact that one is a leader is proof that one has already demonstrated a certain measure of success. One is given the leadership responsibility because either have demonstrated by performance or training – or a combination of both that is capable of successful leadership. “All managers fill positions with a common requirement: managers work with and through people to accomplish desired results”.

Primarily effective managers must achieve results. They are therefore, concerned with productivity, efficiency, and profitability (PEP). Managers must build genuine solid relationships with people. As a manager one must always apply the principle of the “slight edge”. Let me explain a bit, this is an interesting but often misunderstood principle about personal productivity and supervisory excellence: I have been wired that as a manager you can make an amazing increase in results you produce through your team with only minor changes or additions to your managerial behavior. For example some areas where slight edge increases your value as a manager are:

1) Planning and scheduling, 2) Time management, 3) Human relations, 4) Decision making and problem solving, 5) Team building and always and 6) Focusing on the big picture.

Reporter: Secondly, can you ascribe that your personal growth has been anchored by the professional management courses you have acquired so far and do you subscribe to any membership of other professional institutes besides CICRMA?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: As a junior manager when first promoted, you do not often realize what you do not know, particularly if you have been fast -tracked into position of higher responsibility. Mind you this business world has no respect for people without evidence. That was exactly my scenario; then I was promoted to be a supervisor at age twenty two and I had to upgrade myself as fast as possible to bridge my knowledge gap. Being employed fulltime I had to adjourn the academic route and instead take the professional direct hands on route. As an example; I enrolled for a self-study professional Diploma in Supervision and Management (DSM) with the Zimbabwe Institute of Management. The DSM programme exposes you to what it takes to operate at a middle management level.

The Executive Diploma in Business Leadership (EDBL) which I graduated with a record as one of the Best Students ever from the same institute then exposed me to what it takes to operate at the strategic level within an organization. Without taking part in professional programmes it will take a lot longer for you as a young manager to learn the ropes. My real turning point in leadership came when I did a highly esteemed course called the Making of a Champion (MOC) accredited by Success Motivation International SMI-USA. I am a professional learner myself in the immediate future I see myself completing my CIMA among others courses until I attain a Doctorate. I hail from a family of professors, teachers and preachers it is in our royal blood to study.

Lastly, to answer the second part I have been a student member and now a full member for Zimbabwe Institute of Management (M.ZIM) since 2004, I currently serve on the regional Executive Committee; in few years I will graduate into a Fellow. I am also a full member for Chartered Management Institute UK, (M.CMI), I have since suspended my studies on being a Chartered Manager as the programme is currently on halt in Zimbabwe, and one can pursue it either in Botswana or South Africa for now.

Reporter: Wonderful! What is your definition for success and how do you link it with both personal and career goals?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Success to me is a journey and not a destination. I am a trained Making of a Champion (MOC) facilitator by Success Motivation International SMI-USA founded by the late Dr Paul Meyer and my mentor in Zimbabwe is former CZI president and one of premier economic industrialist Mr. Calisto Jokonya henceforth my simple understanding of success as a champion is anchored on Dr Paul Meyer’s definition “Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile, pre-determined personal goals” In simpler terms a goal is a target or a temporary destination in defined time limits. To be successful, you must know where you are going. I like the part ‘progressive realization’ This means when one chooses a purpose or destination for your life, determine that it has worth and value for you, and start moving toward it, then you are successful. I know I have not yet achieved all that I can and want to do in my career, but I realize to a certain extent I can define myself successful because am moving towards greater achievement and higher personal productivity.

Reporter: Now back to your award according to your understanding what is a Fellow Member or how do you become one?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Thank you. Interestingly just few days ago I was probed by my colleagues and friends to clarify more on what is a Fellow. To answer the first part an extract from the Wikipedia states that “In academia a Fellow is a member of a group of learned people who work together as peers in the pursuit of mutual knowledge or practice. While in Learned or professional societies, or speciality training, Fellows are the highest grade of membership of most professional or learned societies (see for example, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators F.CIA or Royal College of Surgeons F.RCS). Lower grades are referred to as members e.g. M.CIA (who typically share voting rights with the fellows), or associates e.g. A.CIA (who may or may not, depending on whether “associate” status is a form of full membership).”

Reporter: In you your case is it the same scenario?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Likewise I am now a Fellow Member this is the highest grade of membership for CICRMA members and as peers we are in pursuit of mutual knowledge and one goal in practice that is – Zero tolerance to bad customer service. Fellow Members are entitled to receive all communication circulated by CICRMA and have access to the member’s area website. Fellow Members are invited to attend meetings organized by CICRMA. I can now serve on any Committee and I have voting rights at any AGM or other formal meetings organised by CICRMA. This means am now authorized and entitled to full rights to use the initials F.CICRMA after my name in any correspondence.
Meanwhile let me answer your second question; how a fellowship is acquired varies from each society or institute to another, but may typically involve some or all of these:
a) A qualifying period in a lower grade, b) Passing a series of examinations, c) Nomination by two existing fellows who know the applicant professionally, d) Evidence of continued formal training post-qualification, e) Evidence of substantial achievement in the subject area, f) Submission of a thesis or portfolio of works which will be examined.

Reporter: What do you think inspired the awarding of this prestigious professional membership status?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: I was honored by Chartered Institute of Customer Relationship Management Africa (CICRMA) for promoting Customer Relationship Management as a profession by virtue of my self-efficacy in expressing abundant talent; investing my time and treasure in writing business articles, research papers and publishing two books focusing on Customer Relationship Management . The honour decision was at the sole discretion of the President and National Executive Council of the institute. I am humbled and amazed by this recognition, it is all by God’s Grace. I am always guided by two theme scriptures Psalm 16 and Jeremiah 9 v 23-24. If you can find time to read them, I cannot boast at All.

Reporter: What motivated the theme of your two books that have landed you this recognition to focus on “External Customer and Employee Satisfaction”?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: There is a positive and significant relationship between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction; these relationships are positive and statistically and substantively significant. Employee satisfaction is significantly related to service quality and to customer satisfaction, while the later in turn influences firm profitability leading to a satisfaction-quality-profit cycle.

Furthermore it has been long established that organizations with a quality foundation have better leverage to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction while research has shown that a specific key driver of achieving customer satisfaction is employee satisfaction. The elements that lead to employee satisfaction and customer retention are said to have fundamental implications for corporate profitability. Unlike much of the mainstream literature, which generally focuses on the relationship between two of these three subjects (employee satisfaction, customer retention, and corporate profitability), the two books considers the effects, importance and reliance between all three.

Reporter: What is your customer service excellence philosophy?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: I always like to define a customer as the conduit between the employee and any profit potential that an organization may realize. To me the most important thing for any business to remember is that ‘customer service’ is not a noun, it’s a verb. One has to be doing it, not saying it. And it’s also important to remember that it’s not just a question of whether you deliver customer service, it’s a question of how you do so.

The right approach focuses more on delivering the positive experiences.One has to know what customers actually want while focusing on getting them to get value for money as they hand over cash to you. If you follow this customer centric approach to customer service, it results in loyal customers who know they can depend on your business as a reliable, trustworthy, and competent business that appreciates them. You have to always value the fact that they choose to spend their hard-earned cash with you, and know that it’s a pleasure doing business with them.

Reporter: You mentioned the fact that customers choose to spend their hard-earned cash; there comes in an economic aspect of opportunity cost, does this mean the importance of customer service excellence has grown in developing countries and across all sectors even here in Zimbabwe to be specific ?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Emphatically Yes! Without a doubt! While good service has always been at the heart of business success, the world is a far more competitive place today than it was yesterday. And it will be more so tomorrow. It’s really not easy for businesses to compete on price anymore, so many have to find other ways of differentiating themselves from their competitors – and customer service is the one sure-fire way of doing that. Any business can advertise, market, and run promotions – and given the tough economic climate, most are. But there are still very few businesses that understand the importance of great customer service – let alone practice service excellence. So, if your business does, and is, you’re already streets ahead of your competition. And it will show on your bottom line.

Reporter: How important is the role of Social Media in promoting customer service excellence today?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Social media relevance in today’s business has impeccably meant that the world has shrunk to the point that thousands, even millions, of people can instantly know about the bad (or good) experience a customer just had at your establishment or service centre. It’s worth making the customer service effort to maximise the chances that your business is ‘liked’. The risk of failing to deliver great service is greater than ever.

Reporter: How important are employer/employee relationships to customer service?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: Mutual respect and understanding between employer and employee is critical; and symbiotic to the ultimate realization of organizational goals. You cannot and will not achieve anything near the customer service commitment you desire if your employees couldn’t care less about your business. In many ways, realizing a solid customer service culture begins with cultivating a solid staff care and communication culture. When you recognize, acknowledge, and reward the value your employees add to your business, they respond by delivering more value. It’s a basic rule of business success and it lies at the heart of a customer service culture.

Reporter: Are there any starting points for businesses that want to improve their customer service?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: There are plenty of ways for any business to start a customer service improvement journey. The first step, though, is to get a clear understanding of why you’re doing it and what the consequences could be of not doing it.For the sack of promoting the two books I won’t go into more details. Soon another book will be available accompanied by a customer service excellence guidelines and workbook as a bonus. The book is being published in the US so that we balance the publishing and marketing costs and channels of distribution, first time outside Europe after the first three were published in German and UK respectively.

Reporter: What are the costs involved in creating a good customer service experience?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: I always express it this way: there is no cost, but there may be some investment required. The difference is that one drains your bank account while the other grows it. In reality, excellent customer service need not cost you anything. After all look; how much does it cost to change one’s attitude? And in the long term, good customer service excellence will actually drive one’s business costs down while driving the value for your customers up. That’s because when you do things right the first time, you actually save money – and your customer saves time and hassle.

Reporter: In our last interview early this year you hinted a lot about how your father (Benson Snr) moulded you into a reader. You also highlighted that your brother (Dr Innocent Chirisa-Mahere) who is a lecturer at University of Zimbabwe also motivated you to be an author. This time may you shade more light on other people including your late mother and dear wife; especially those who you know they have played a critical role in your life up to today?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: I dedicated these specific books to the two most important women in my life (my late mother Beatrice and wife Martha). My mother’s life, character and values have taught me that there will never be a day that will not require…a) Dedication, b) Discipline, c) Perseverance, and d) Personal Integrity. While my wife Martha is loving; she has remained my encourager and supporter of my dreams she is endowed with a certain level of Biblical wisdom and she is an impeccable Proverbs 31 life example just like her mother late mother in law. Let me tell you these two were very close. I presume she took after her mother too, my mother in law believes in me so much that I pray not to disappoint her.

My journey and quest for being a champion started from my high school days with the guidance of my former Headmaster Mr. C.M Dhewah; at Serima High School, in Chatsworth, Gutu he saw a young lad with a bright future whom he recommended for positions of trust, I was school head boy for a record four years (form 3 to form 6), thus I was the very first Upper Sixth head boy and most decorated school prefect.

Just to mention a few out of a list of almost forty people in industry I was mentored by Mr. David Mitchely, the late Mr. Hussein Katumba, Mr. Keith Heywood and of course my current immediate boss Mr. Justin C. Muchazivepi among others. The most memorable interactions so far were with Mr. Calisto Jokonya, Mr. Nigel Chanakira, Dr John Maxwell, Mr. Evidence Muza; the late Dr Eric Block; Mrs.Felistus Sakone; Dr Chris Kasiyazi, Dr Lucky Mlilo and Mr. Philip Mataranyika among others. In the family circle I give special mention to my uncle Reverend Philip Mahere; my uncle and mother Professors Jameson and Primrose Kurasha their achievements and humble conduct always befits me and always make me to realize that even the sky is not the limit. In generations close to mine I am inspired by Rabison Shumba, Jonah Mungoshi, and Jaired W. Ncube.

Reporter: What voice inspires your vision to subscribe to customer focused service excellence leadership may be as a compass to help someone with a vision but is not sure thus his/her area of significance or purpose in life?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: As a born again Christian I can say as you think about the vision you might want to pursue, remember that God uses a variety of “voices” to communicate to us. Consider how He has motivated you in the past. What methods has He used?

1) The inner voice: Does your vision come from life goals, personal mission statements or your personal desires? You won’t accomplish something do don’t believe in.
2) The Angry voice: Does your vision come from dislike of a certain injustice or problem? Do you have to complain about the darkness or light a candle?
3) The successful voice: Do you find your vision from people who have already gone through the same situation? Find someone who can be a mentor figure in your life in that specific aspect or field.
4) The Higher voice: A truly valuable vision is given from God. Look from the past to guide your present and future. Are you a big picture person or do you live life looking through a key hole?
Conclusively; it is easy to handle your vision if you can a) See it clearly, b) Show it creatively and c) Say it constantly. In simple words you must be prepared to burn bridges when necessary and risk everything to become an achiever in life.

Reporter: What’s your last word of advice to inspire someone out there?
Mr. Benson Mukandiwa: In life there is always a competing force, so you have to be tenacious, hands-on, be a self starter with great zeal for challenges in life, be ambitious and be prepared to take pride in working for glory from a zero base. Allow me to explain more on being tenacious. As a Christian I am always inspired by Paul’s Words “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.” According to 2 Timothy 4:6-7.This mean even people who lack talent and fail to cultivate other vital qualities can contribute if they possess a tenacious spirit. Let me answer you as trained Million Leaders Mandate graduate according to Dr. John C Maxwell an international leadership guru, being tenacious means three things:

a) “Giving all that you have, not more than you have-Some people mistakenly believe that being tenacious demands from them more than they have to offer. As a result, they don’t push themselves. However, being tenacious requires that you give 100 percent-not more, but certainly not less.”
b) “Working with determination, not waiting on destiny-Tenacious people don’t rely on luck, fate, or destiny for their success. They know that trying times are no time to quit trying.”
c) Quitting when the job is done, not when you’re tired-Robert Strauss said, “Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired-you quit when the gorilla is tired.” If you want your team to succeed, you have to keep pushing beyond what you think you can do. It’s not the first but the last step in the relay race, the last shot in the basketball game, and the last yard kick with the football into the goal zone that makes the difference, for that is where the game is won.
I dedicate this achievement interview to my two sons King Ethan and King Edric. Be blessed News of the South Chief Editor and everyone in the media house, you have always cherished my little strides in my quest to achieve my goal of being an award winning New York best-selling author one day; my promise to the outside world, my life colleagues, fellow members, colleagues, readers, brothers and sister in Christ is that my best books are yet to be published and more awards are yet to come.

I thank you all A million times. God bless and MERRY Christmas and Have a Prosperous and Fruitful 2015.

Copies of books by Mr. Benson Mukandiwa are available on sale at premier online stores such as Amazon, Books on Demand BOD and other online bookstores. He can be contacted directly on +263713197100 or +263774679071 Email: benmuk@gmail.com




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