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Is customer still king?

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Have you heard this query lately, “Good morning, how may I help you?” – I doubt it.

Well, I have rarely heard it and I am beginning to wonder what has happened to customer service today.

Some might argue there is no longer enough time to be courteous and polite, perhaps it is not necessary or well maybe the thought is “you ask first”.

I have had incidents and heard about others where you wonder when good, professional customer service was thrown out the door.

Recently one morning, I had to deposit money for someone at one of our local banks (not the bank where my account is) and it was quite an experience. I confidently made my way in, filled in the deposit slip only to be told by the security guard there was one teller present who could not attend to me.

He saw the look on my face and quickly let me know that I had been “upgraded” to go and make my deposit in the Prestige Banking section for the first-class banking service. That was fair until I got to the “infamous” Prestige Banking to find a long queue.
Prestige is positioned as a banking experience where the client gets attended to immediately, is offered refreshments and premium service.

The minute I saw the queue the so-called Prestige Banking term fell out of mind. The queue in the little room was long and consequently some had chosen to take seats around with someone holding their place in the queue.

I was fairly patient and calm until I heard the first complaint.

The man in front was fuming at how he now had to go back and get his identity documents; he was trying to get an explanation from the teller. The next moment he was storming out murmuring something about “I can’t believe the service here.”

That raised my eyebrows so now I watched closely. A woman stormed in shortly, heading straight to the front, ranting about the ATM machine and how it had returned her card without the money. “No money! No money!” she yelled (she was not a first-language English speaker).

The teller continued to serve the customer in front of her, practically ignoring this woman. Behind this teller, there were other employees running back and forth once again muttering something about the machine, not even taking a minute to attend to this woman’s devastating situation.

A few minutes later someone else walked in with the same concern and mentioned it was not the first time this had happened to her.

During this time, no one bothered to inform these customers and update them on the situation with the ATM and how they would eventually get their money.

Instead these employees made it appear as if the customer had now officially become the irritating problem — how frustrating. I kept thinking to myself thank goodness I had just come to make a deposit. My turn came and the teller looked at me, stretched out her hand, moved her lips a little and processed my transaction.

Well, maybe it was a busy day at the bank and they failed to cope, but I hope one day they realise the customer matters.

Moving onto another incident a couple of months ago, this time it was a clothing store. I saw something I liked in their display outside and wanted to take a closer look.

As I tried to get in one of the shop assistants was standing right by the door focused on her packet of chips. I literally had to enter the shop at an angle trying to make my way in. This assistant did not move an inch; instead she looked straight at me as if to say if I had bumped her she could have choked on her chips. That was my cue to leave.

This is another reminder that these days it is rare to go to a shop and have someone trail behind you willing to assist, (or others could think to make sure you do not steal anything). When you find something you like, you have to be the one to make the effort to find someone to assist you, the customer.

In another case, one woman shared her experiences of travelling from Harare to Gweru by bus.

Firstly, at one bus company she wanted to buy a ticket for a senior citizen, as these are usually discounted. She explained how she got into the office, no one bothered to attend to her.

Each time she would ask questions, they would respond rudely and continue with their business.

What an inconvenience for her to interrupt their fun conversation. How could the customer do that? This is what she felt, she felt like she was a bother to the bus company, that issuing a ticket and answering questions was a huge price for the company to pay. How rude!

With the other bus company she paid $25 to go to Gweru which is the same fare to Bulawayo.
Her grievance at this point is you do not get food if you drop off in Gweru as this is reserved for passengers going all the way to Bulawayo.

Despite feeling short-changed, she emphasised that “those serving do not have time for their customers, do not talk properly and are very rude”.

Call me irate, but I thought the customer was king!

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