Kgomotso Matsunyane

Cheque, please!

2008-07-17 08:55

Kgomotso Matsunyane

As a nation we are notorious for bad service. Hell, it's almost a source of pride for some. 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 sewerage, thank you very much.

My mom had to take the day from work so that she could be there when the council workers came to fix the pipe. Just as I pulled out of the house I realised that our neighbours also had a burst pipe coming out of their yard, and their water was flowing onto the street.

Two days later, my mother was still on the phone with now council worker number 18, who was promised that people were on their way. That was two weeks ago. It emerged that the workers only went to our neighbours' house to fix the problem, because their burst was spilling into the street. When that was done, they wrapped up and took off.

The pool has dried out, but now we have an open pipe in the backyard.

How do we get it so wrong in this country? It's not just government departments either; I was treated quite rudely by some Oom at Vodaworld this morning. See, 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, methinks, 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.

Would you like fries with that?

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 have been a dishwasher and waitress at an establishment called The Happy Chef to earn money during my college years; I was just so happy to have a way to make any money that how I was doing it was completely irrelevant.

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

Say what you will about the US, but my experience in that country spoilt me rotten when it comes to customer service. The principle of "the customer is always right" is just taken to a whole other level there.

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

But no, I guess for most of us that is just too complicated a concept to grapple with. And I suppose when we are not as spoilt for choice as our American counterparts may be, 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 their venom.

Worse still, we pay for it.

  • Kgomotso Matsunyane is a writer, producer and partner at T.O.M. Pictures, an award winning film and TV production company in Jo'burg.

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