CUSTOMER care is central to building brand loyalty and cultivating a broad customer base.
However, if the truth be told it is now commonplace for retailers and service providers to routinely abuse customers. Just three weeks ago I was horrified to discover that a huge snake had make its way into our yard and as a loyal and responsible citizen I immediately decided to report the matter to the Department of Parks.
Much to my disappointment I received a lukewarm reception from everybody at the parks department and an indifferent officer called Godfrey coldly told me that I should wait until I saw the snake again and then call him. He was too busy with other business to attend to this trivial issue.
In my naïvety I had thought that the officer would at least offer some advice on how we could deal with the snake.
But alas the young officer did not even bother to find out what kind of snake it was or what precautionary measures could be taken to ensure that children where safe.
The parks department is not alone in this indifference to customers as other government departments and private retailers have gained notoriety for abusing customers after having institutionalised rudeness.
On a number of occasions after having patiently waited in supermarket queues for long periods of time my temperament has been tested by till operators who decide to close their tills just when I get to their tills and then rudely tell me to join the next long winding queue without even an apology.
I understand that till operators also endure abuse from customers some of whom shout obscenities at them for no apparent reason, but there is no reason for them then to abuse innocent customers who bring business to them and ensure that they are employed.
I recently had an unpleasant brush at a popular fast foods outlet which is known for serving fresh hot chips and Russian sausages when a grumpy till operator angrily told me to take my chips and go away.
I tried to tell her to speak courteously to customers, but was met with refined coldness and rudeness. The young girl really thought she was the best thing that has happened to Bulawayo since Bosso won the championship in 2006.
I tried to request to speak to the manager, but was told that there was no manager.
Imagine a shop without a manager or even a proper complaints structure. After a full thirty minutes remonstrating with this rather dull till operator I received a rude “sorry phela”.
Zimbabwe has virtually become a police State with roadblocks on every major road and to crown it off almost every other
department mans these roadblocks.
It must only be Zimbabwe where you find four government departments and the local authority at a roadblock.
Motorists are subjected to on site interrogation not only from the police, but Zinara, the City Council and it won’t be long before we see Zesa, Zinwa and Zifa manning roadblocks as well.
Comedy aside it is not healthy for a country which is it peace to have so many roadblocks as this is not a good reflection of the country as a tourist attraction.
After all how come there is no institution that is checking the innumerable number of potholes on the country’s roads but instead people are harassed for the condition of their cars when the condition of the roads has crippled many cars?
In any case I digress may I, however, emphasise that in spite of the large number of roadblocks the police have improved their public relations in most roadblocks as officers are now courteous to motorists.
The number of roadblocks is however not warranted as this slows down business.
My parting shot is that the police are now to be referred as the Police Service under the new Constitution and should thus reflect the aspect of delivering security services to the public.
I would like to urge government departments and local authorities to improve their customer signage so that customers are aware of what kind of services they could receive from which offices.
At times one is told rather rudely “Kanti awukwazi ukuthi information inga?” You don’t know where the information department office is?).
Services to customers should be timely as outlined in chapter nine of the Constitution and organisations, institutions as well as other organs should ensure that frontline officers such as receptionists and till operators are trained in public relations and customer care.
The customer is king.
Dumisani Nkomo is an activist, social entrepreneur and chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust. He writes in his personal capacity.