Bad service par for the course in SA?

2008-07-18 00:00

As a nation we are notorious for providing bad service. Hell, it’s almost a source of pride for some people. We had a burst pipe in our yard, very unpleasant business I tell you. I’ve always wanted a swimming pool, but not one made of sewage, thank you very much.

My mother had to take the day off work so that she could be at home when municipal workers came to fix the pipe. Just as I drove from my house I noticed that our neighbours also had a burst pipe in their yard and the water was flowing on to the street.

Two days later, my mother was still on the phone with municipal worker number 18, who promised that people were on the way to repair the pipe.

That was two weeks ago. It emerged that the workers only went to our neighbours’ house to fix the problem because the water coming from their yard was spilling on to the street. When the work was done, they packed up and took off.

How do we get it so wrong in this country? It’s not just government departments either. I was treated rather rudely by some oom at Vodaworld this morning. I was trying to get my Blackberry to talk to my laptop, and this dude was consummate at making sure that I left there feeling like a complete and utter idiot.

It wasn’t a computer issue but a handset one. That information could have been imparted without too much attitude, but then maybe I’m just weird. It must also be said that the other two people I was directed to for help were great, but it’s the bad service that always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Is it because in this country those who are typically on the serving side are traditionally seen as educationally and socially “inferior”, or is it something else? As a student I was a dishwasher and waitress at an establishment called The Happy Chef to earn money during my college years. I was so happy to have a way of making money that it was completely irrelevant how I did it.

As a waitress my efficiency and attitude was directly related to the size of my tips, so even if premenstrual syndrome was kicking my ass in a spectacular fashion, my customers would never know it.

Say what you will about the United States, but my experience there spoilt me rotten when it came to customer service. The principle of “the customer is always right” is taken to a whole new level there.

What the Americans understand and what we seem to be struggling with, is that making a customer feel good and valued is not only free, but it is also good old common sense. A happy customer is likely to return to support the business, and a happy customer will advertise the business for free.

But no, I guess for some of us this is just too complicated a concept with which to grapple. And I suppose when we are not as spoilt for choice as our American counterparts are, we’re likely to return to the scene of the crime for some stroppy server to cop a major attitude and dish out more of his or her venom.

Worse still, we pay for it.

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