Driven by customer satisfaction

By Theresia Tjihenuna
November 2012
On the Move
Team leading, motivating and being a people’s person are the leadership qualities that have served Helena Shilongo well in her career over the years.

In August this year, Shilongo was appointed the new senior manager of Medical Provider Relations at the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA Fund).

This is a position she took after serving as the MVA Fund Claims Management senior manager for two and a half years.

Shilongo is probably one of MVA Fund’s longest-serving employees having begun her tenure in 1996 as a claims assessor.

Since then, she has worked her way up the success ladder within the same company.

She has thus served in various positions. First as a customer service officer and then as a senior customer service officer before becoming head of the Ondangwa branch and finally the branch manager at Ongwediva.

So what drives her?

“I always avail myself to respond to client queries. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than serving clients,” she says.

Her new responsibilities entail relations management, medical provider satisfaction, State hospitals relationship management and people management.

Fortunately for her, the transition to another department was a smooth one since there are a lot of similarities between the two departments like dealing directly with client queries.

Shilongo was born in northern Namibia at Oshilemba Village in Ongandjera Area in 1975.

Having grown up in one of Omusati Region’s villages called Tsandi in Uukwaluudhi, Helena describes herself as a “village girl” who was raised single-handedly by her mother as an only child.

She would go to Windhoek in 1995 to study commerce at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) where she would later complete her B Tech in Business Administration in 2004.

“I’m currently doing my thesis for a Masters in International Business at the PoN, which I hope to complete this year,” she reveals.

Her warm and caring personality has earned her the nickname ‘kuku’ (elder mother) amongst her colleagues.

One of her secrets to success is willingness to take risks when faced with difficult situations.

“In life, you have to take risks for clients and have strong analytical skills. You also have to possess negotiation skills, which are vital for success,” she advises.

Another leadership trait she possesses is being a people-oriented leader, “I focus on organising, supporting and developing my team members. It is a participatory style which tends to encourage good team work and creative collaboration.”

She believes people-oriented leaders are people who treat team members equally and pay extra attention to every individual in the team.

Shilongo’s strong leadership skills were affirmed when she was awarded the MVA 360° Award as the company’s best employee.

She won the award for three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010.

“The success of my team lies in the fact that I provide support whenever they need it. I believe hard work pays and success is always around the corner. Life is what we believe in and what we can achieve tomorrow,” she says.

So what does a typical working day look like for her?

“I start off by jotting down my plans for the day but I often find myself not really sticking to them, because so many queries come in and I always have to adjust my time accordingly. But I continue planning, regardless,” she says.

Like any other institution, the MVA Fund has its share of challenges that include lack of specialists for accident victims amongst others.

For that, Shilongo says; “We only have two neurosurgeons in Windhoek and sometimes we have to send people to South Africa for treatment but despite these challenges, we soldier on.”

If there is one thing she could change in the country, it would be the attitude of drivers on the road.

“We (drivers) are selfish and don’t value each other’s lives on the road. More should be done to educate road users to be more cautious when driving.”

The MVA Fund can only do so much but does not have the mandate to reduce the rising road accident fatalities, she adds.

Even though she has achieved so much thus far, Shilongo says there is always something new to learn, which she always passes on to those around her. PF