This is Personal Business: Customer Service Lessons from Ghana

I sometimes struggle with describing what everyday life in Ghana is like to people who live elsewhere (I try though, see my posts on everyday life in Ghana here). This week, however I had several experiences that all describe very well the warmth and cordiality of human interaction and how it seamlessly blends with business. I think the term “personal business” could be used for what I want to discuss in this post and that Ghana could teach the world!

I say this since I believe “personal business” has several positive results, like repeat business, customer satisfaction and lower sensitivity for price hikes and the likes. Here it’s been discovered – tadaa – the we are not the “economic man” when we make purchase decisions, we are “social man”.

I have four examples of “personal business” in Ghana happening to me just in the last week:


1. At Hairdresser’s

My hairdresser put the finishing touches to my hair and as I was getting up from my chair, her mother walked in. This is my hairdresser since about a year and I have met her mother some few times there. I said thank you to my hairdresser and turned to her mother and after some chitchat said “Merry Christmas if I do not see you before the holidays” and she reached out to embrace me!

If you live outside of Ghana: When were you last hugged by the mother of your hairdresser?


2. At the Gas station

I have been taking a new road to work and there is a newly opened gasstation on my new route. The first time I was there, I chatted with the attendants as my tanked was filled up (a luxury of the Ghanaian everyday life, you do not pump your own gas!). The next time I came, one of the attendants happily greeted me: “Mrs Adu, welcome!”

If you live outside of Ghana: When were you last addressed by name as you went to buy gas?


3. Knock, Knock, Seamstress here

Sunday night, there’s a knock on the door, outside is the young woman who used to be my seamstresses’ assistant years ago, but now is a seamstress in her own right. She says she has been thinking of me and want to sow something for me for christmas. Very well, I had meant to get that done, so I invite her in to take my measurements and collect a cloth I was given as a gift and have at home.

If you live outside of Ghana: When was the last time a craftswoman knocked on your door and asked if she could be of help?


 4. At the Car Shop

My car has been having problems and Thursday, I went to my mechanic. He puts on a wide smile as he sees me and teasingly addresses me in Twi – to test the limit of my language knowledge. Another customer is there and is surprised by this and we all laugh about it. I leave feeling entertained (and with new break pads)!

If you live outside of Ghana: When was the last time you had a hearty laugh together with your mechanic?


I am sure this is not just me who is experiencing “personal business”, rather in Ghana this is commonplace. I love that people know who I am, what I like and try to return to the same place for my clothes/haircut/car service and “my” service person. I shudder when remembering how even at your local supermarket or cafe in Europe you would ofte not be even recognized, let alone receive any type of personalised attention.

In Ghana, although we often complain of slow and at times indifferent customer service is – and sometimes it is both – but maybe they don’t now you just yet? We should also remember that many times customer service in Ghana is fused with friendship – which means it is highly personalized and what seems to be effortlessly cordial to the benefit of the company and the customer!

What great “personal business” have you recently had/provided in Ghana?

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Swedish Trade Minister in Ghana

Currently the Swedish Trade Minister Eva Bjorling is in Ghana.

The minister has been visiting a Swedish-Ghanaian theater project, had meetings with Ericsson in Ghana and met with Ghana’s Trade Minister Hanna Tetteh. According to Peace FM, Bjorling said that

“trade relations between the two countries had steadily increased over the years, indicating increased interest among Swedish companies to strengthen business relations with Ghana.”

I believe that the last time Sweden sent a minister to Ghana was in 2006 (captured on the popular Swedish TV program Diplomaterna). Earlier this year, the Swedish Ambassador to West Africa promised increased investments in Ghana from Swedish companies. And now this visit, so maybe ties between Ghana and Sweden are actually being strengthened.

I feel it is hopeful that the relationship between my two countries, Sweden and Ghana, is based on trade rather than aid.

Some Swedish companies in Ghana are Sandvik, AtlasCopco, MTG/ViaSat and Ericsson.

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Self Branding for Bloggers

Today, I had an interesting lunch with a branding specialist who introduced me to the concept of “self branding”.

My new friend the branding specialist suggested that branding is much, much more than marketing, larger than presentation, it involves everything you do and how you do it – that has to do with goals and purpose as well. She stressed the importance of adapting your own brand communication to your environment. Branding yourself in Ghana, maybe even in certain circles of Accra, is different from doing it in South Africa or Sweden. I was intrigued and to understand this idea of self branding better, I did some research and this is what I found…

Lea Ancantara is someone who has made a career out of what she calls “The Art of Self Branding” and her website which has all kinds of resources (PowerPoints, lectures on sound files, book tips, articles etc). It all  starts with a mini summary of her understanding of the concept:

Who are you? Who cares?

In a longer article, Lea Ancantara further suggests you should do some research into how you are perceived, who your “market” consists of (in blogging we call them “readers”), but also think about where you came from, what your “story” is and to try to be consistent. In the end, Lea returns to the initial question, adding a few more which should be answered quickly by your branding effort:

Who am I? What am I? Where am I? Who are you? How’d I get here?

The always interesting Fast Company suggests in an article on Self Branding by Tom Peters that the web with its personal websites is a part of it:

how do you know which sites are worth visiting, which sites to bookmark, which sites are worth going to more than once? The answer: branding. The sites you go back to are the sites you trust. They’re the sites where the brand name tells you that the visit will be worth your time — again and again. The brand is a promise of the value you’ll receive.

And here I started to get really interested, how do I create a blog brand that makes people come back? And how is that branding?

Here are my thoughts…and I have tried without knowing it was called self-branding. For instance, I was thinking long and hard about what picture to use in my heading, what colors,  what slogan to use (“Lecturer, Freelance Writer and Blogger in Ghana” is the current version), to be consistent in tone and content, what topics to write on (still too many?), what categories to use… Lately, I have noticed (the readership of) my blog is not really growing, maybe because I have been to busy to do more than post. I rarely market my blog these days. Or is it because of conflicting branding messages?

Anyways, life has more to it than blogging. There is also the real world…

Tom Peters/Fast Company and Lea Ancantara/The Art of Self Branding both talk about how self branding, as opposed to business branding have no limits. Yes, you can use a blog, But that is just one example. Fast company presents another idea to do projects just to show new people who you are and what you can do and I must say I just love this attitude of working to network:

Sign up for an extra project inside your organization, just to introduce yourself to new colleagues and showcase your skills — or work on new ones. Or, if you can carve out the time, take on a freelance project that gets you in touch with a totally novel group of people.

Writing in local newspapers and volunteering to speak at conferences are other “visibility” tips.

Now over to you, dear reader.

Self branding, is it something you think about? How do you feel about being a brand? If you are a blogger, do you have a “blogging brand”?

Pic borrowed from this blog.

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