Waning Culture of Customer Service

The realisation that as an Ethiopian I come second to any other citizen when it comes to getting the services that I pay for is a bitter pill to swallow. The clerk barely looking up from the desk to give me a rude answer, and not the correct one at that, is a situation I despise – especially when questions to sincerely understand the reason for the rejection of the service I requested are shut down without explanation and perceived as some sort of rebellion. This is something that we all notice on a daily basis, but choose to not say a word about or prefer to ignore to our own demise.

Even though saying anything that could make one seem look like the rude one is intimidating, we can agree that it does not help the situation in any way not to.

Growing up in Ethiopia as an Ethiopian makes me realise that even though we have many things to be proud of as a nation, our treatment of others is one which deserves flagellation. How can we be in any way proud of the rudeness in which customers are treated in any service providing sector? How can we justify that being tired is making us treat a paying customer with less respect than they deserve? Where have we left the notion of treating the customer right to keep them as customers for the long term?

When we evoke that hospitality is something that Ethiopians are known for, it makes me wonder where we drew the lines today between being hospitable at home and hospitable at work. Is it simply flabbergasting how obvious our treatment of others, including strangers in our home while offering a freshly brewed cup of coffee, is opposed to a customer paying money to get one?

Customer service is something that is sadly unknown to Ethiopians and what makes it even more sad is the fact that we have accepted this enough not to do anything about it. Would providing the proper customer service training to our employees be costlier in the long term than losing customers on a daily basis through time? Should applying the same respect and hospitality we implement in our homes be any different than what we give to the customers facing us?

This is in no way to generalise the personality of all Ethiopians, but a way to touch on a subject that everyone complains about behind closed doors and a step in addressing a subject left mostly ignored. There are plenty of customer facing employees that serve with a smile and go out of their way to make the customer’s experience incomparable, is that enough though? Why should we be happy to get a smile from the waiter serving our coffee as if that was something we didn’t deserve?

I must admit I have been one of many unsuspecting witnesses to exaggerating customers, making scenes out of situations that didn’t deserve drama. At the same time, I have seen so-called managers giving the most unrealistic excuses to avoid having to indemnify the customer there and then. I, however, ask myself, if the reactions from the business owners and/or employees would have been the same had customers gone a step further and sued for the unjust services or products they receive.

That being said, it is obvious that customer service, as one facet of a profession, whether it be in any of the public or private sectors, should be a priority in a country that is seeing the number of tourists rise as each month goes by. This is a point worth emphasising, not because it isn’t important for locals to receive the proper service, but because everyone deserves proper customer service. A service not based on the clothing, or the skin colour or appearance in general, but based on the fact that it is a human being deserving proper treatment.

I believe that anyone willing to spend their hard earned money on a certain product or service and not another is deserving of the answers and treatment they require, within limits of course. However, having to put up with feisty attitudes on public transportation, in food stores, pharmacies and hospitals, restaurants and other service and product selling companies can be very trying to anyone in their right mind.

There is probably not one way of dealing with this issue that we are unfortunately making a name for ourselves as Ethiopians, but the first step would be to recognise the situation when faced with it on both sides of the coin.

We have the right to ask however many questions we want to before spending our money and we have the duty to answer as many questions when we are on the other side. The question that is lingering in my mind now is the one about our work habits here in Ethiopia. Do we work for money, for recognition or for the respect of the job we are responsible for? Wouldn’t the result of our work be dependent upon the reason we employ or find ourselves employed?

Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled “poetic saturdays” - a platform created to allow everyone the freedom of self-expression through art. She can be contacted at poeticsaturdays@gmail.Com

Published on Aug 09,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 849]



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