Customer Service or something resembling it.

A typical scene in an Addis café: I arrive. Frazzled and in need of my java fix. Quick! I signal the wait staff and ask for my poison of choice – Coffee. Black. Hot. Stat. After what seems like an eternity, my coffee – or what’s supposed to be it – comes to the table. No apologies. No nothing! So, what do I do? I send it back – ahhhh…the satisfaction of demanding better!   Do I get a better cup on  the next round?! Not really. I’d hate to think what they would do to my next order.

Nowadays, I’m more realistic. I just don’t go back to places which do not have decent coffee and /or  service. It’s a litmust test for all other meals/drinks/service.  One of the most popular jokes in Addis is that wait staff ask how you’d like to take your macchiato – dark, normal or more on the lighter side. You and a couple of your friends place your preferences but they tell the barista – “ three macchiatos” –  no specific orders –  come back with three IDENTICAL cups of it and then ask you and your friends –“ which one of you ordered the normal/dark/ light?” version?

Enough about cafés!  Customer service woes do not end here. Take any government office – Woreda, sub city, document authentication and registration office and drum roll please …. the ever popular – Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority . These places are where customer service goes to die – at least in my experience. First of all, have you noticed how all these offices almost always are poorly designed in terms of space utilization, ventilation, lighting or even ergonomics? Then,  the people. Their attitude.  It’s so off! They make you feel like you are actually on trial for murder. The horror !!! And what’s this obsession with photocopying every document in triplicate – at least! And where is the photocopy machine and the poor soul who is stuck inhaling all that lung irritating toner . You guessed it. Downstairs or upstairs – in the farthest corner from where the service is actually provided. Do they actually have the intention to frustrate everyone who visits the office?!It sure looks like it. Or else, they get a cut of the income from photocopying documents unnecessarily.

 Then comes our  banks. Yes, those. Even the private ones. Once they say “ There is no network ” or “ there is a problem with the system” … it’s like the customer is actually at fault for requesting any service. Why would I suffer for ethiotelecom’s or the bank’s – you can never really establish whose” network” issue is at fault here – failure? Just because you tell me “network/ System”, it doesn’t absolve you of all responsibility to apologize and find an alternative to serve me.

In most cases, however, training employees in customer service beyond telling them that “ the customer is the king”  and “ the customer is always right” cliché may be the first step in retaining discerning customers. Even though we don’t have yelp yet, we can still bad mouth a service provider on the mighty facebook – or if we are really fancy – on Trip advisor or twitter. Until then, our blogs are going to be the only outlets for our rants.  The best way to cope – aside from making an attempt at giving anybody who would listen a constructive feedback – would be to roll with the punches and laugh it off. It isn’t worth the fight. Just take your business elsewhere. I hope you have an “elsewhere”- unlike me who is stuck here at Bole Subcity!

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