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Elijah
 
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Go and wait in the queue over there!

07 August 2013, 11:46

I’m in a hurry. But I’m always in a hurry. I want to get things done, as in NOW!

Providing excellent customer service is something that SA finds extremely challenging. We don’t seem to understand that customer service is actually a way of generating sales. The better the service you render, the higher the likelihood that people will continue to do business with you. And they will tell their friends about it.

Word of mouth is not something new. But it’s powerful. It’s someone saying that I received good service from so and so. Or that product is really good, you should try as well. Because the source is trusted, there is little or no resistance and so the sale is basically made at that point already. Good service is a mindset which needs to be nurtured in an organisation to become a culture. The culture is simply ‘the way we do things around here’

We have done some amazing things in SA, but coming up with a curriculum to teach customer service is not one of them. Has any SA tertiary institution put together a three year course that students can follow? Is this not part of the problem – could it that too many business leaders think that people should just instinctively know how to give good service?

Every now and again one is faced with the reality of having to face a queue; here I’m not talking about phoning a call centre. I’m talking about a physical queue. I have had to queue so many times in my life. But there is a particular time that stands out for me. I cannot remember the exact nature of the problem, but I needed to go to the municipality- it may have been when we had just moved to a new house. So off I went. Found parking remarkably easy. As I walked in I got the feeling that there were a lot of people in the building, but did not pay too much attention to it. How are you? Where must I go to? Go to counter 2. I did not have to wait too long in this queue so things were looking pretty cool. However from there I had to go to another room, say 205. Up the stairs and ‘ta da!’ – there it was. A queue from here to Timbuktu.

There must be a way out! I went to ask: Excuse me, is this where we queue for this? That is correct. Not everybody is built to wait in a queue. I’m not the best, but the worst either. You try and locate the counter visually where the people are being helped. Next you try to estimate how long it takes on average and then multiply it with the number of people in front of you. Another 2.5 hours!? How am I going to survive this? You look for some form of compatibility with a stranger so you can strike up a conversation, but that day nobody fitted the bill. And so you’re left with your own thoughts and tired legs.

With regular intervals people arrive and the same process unfolds over and over. The bewilderment, the attempt to get out of the queue and then submitting to the inevitable: to go and join the queue right at the back. After about an hour a young man ran in, speaking in Afrikaans he said: ‘Ek wil nou dadelik met die bevelvoerder van die plek praat! (I want to talk to the person in charge here immediately) But it was the response that will stay with me for a long time. There was hardly any response. A few people in close proximity looked at him with wry smiles and yes as you would have guessed, he had to join the queue right at the back. For a few minutes you could hear a few protesting noises from him in the distance, but that also did not last long…

And then finally the elation, the joy mixed with relief – my turn! It’s like going to receive your gold medal or something. They sorted out my problem surprisingly quickly on this occasion and soon everything was  sorted, gave the car guard some coins and ‘sharp-sharp’…

As I left I thought to myself: Why was I so angry that I had to wait? The person who helped me really tried their best to help me. But whose fault is it? I needed closure. How can one deal differently with type of scenario. We cannot go on like this.

And soon my mind drifted to something else. 

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