Customer Service-My Take

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I recently made a trip to Butwal to teach a few classes at Tilottama College where I was promptly picked up at the airport and brought directly to my hotel.  At 7:30 AM on Saturday and Sunday I was picked up to attend my classes.  I was brought to the airport in plenty of time to return to Kathmandu, where I waited for my Buddha Air flight.

At the Buddha Air counter at Gautam Buddha Airport I asked about access to internet.  An employee told me that it was unavailable.  In looking on my computer at available wi-fi connections I noted that both Yeti and Simrik Airlines had available internet.  When I asked one Yeti employee  for the password he  said that it was only for customers.  (There was nobody at the Simrik Air counter to ask).  Recently I also flew to Janakpur , another  small airport, where free wi-fi was universally available.

These examples show the varying degrees of customer service available in Nepal.  In one case, the College, customer service was highly important, i.e. being punctual, ensuring that students would be given the full amount of teaching time.  In the other case, that of having wi-fi access, the service was mixed.  

Some might say that (small) airports don’t need to have free wi-fi, as is also the case at Tribhuvan International Airport and that I’m expecting too much. However, I, and many others, have come to expect this, whether it is free is another story.  Some might say that in a country such as Nepal, it shouldn’t be expected, but I would disagree as having internet access has become an integral part of life, at least for some.

Customer service is defined as, “knowledge delivered with care to make life easier for the customer.”  Another definition states, “the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service.”  For me customer service is also about anticipating a customer’s needs, whether that be external or internal, and bringing delight when s/he least expects this.  Customer service is about treating others as we would like to be treated, but do those of us working with others, no matter which sector, really take this to heart?

How does business, an NGO or government actually accomplish excellent customer service?  (Yes, government does need to be concerned about customer service). The world famous Pike Place Fish Market introduced an organisational philosophy called FISH, based on four practices: 1) make their day; 2) being present; 3) having fun at work; and 4) choosing one’s attitude. This has translated into excellent customer service and is used by numerous organisations throughout the world.

However, excellent customer service cannot occur, unless employees are happy and are enabled to make suggestions and think for themselves.  Imagine the type of service that would be accorded to the public if government bureaucrats were empowered and happy.  How about those at the lower levels of a corporate/NGO ladder enabled to develop and make recommendations which are actually heard and potentially implemented.  What about treating others with basic respect no matter who they are?

When shopping in smaller stores in Kathmandu I typically get excellent customer service but this is usually based on me knowing the owners and them knowing me, at least by site.   The shop owners “make” me want to shop at their establishments. At times all that it takes is a simple smile. When workplace colleagues treat me with respect, which really doesn’t take much, and show a little politeness, a “thank-you” here and a “you’re welcome” there, ask rather than demand, this encourages me want to do what I’m asked. This doesn’t really amount to having to think about customer service, but is more in-line with a basic regard for others.

Customer service in Nepal, and let me also put in India where I lived for three years, doesn’t have to be the same as what I’ve experienced growing up in the US. But there is definitely something to be learned from anticipating how to make other’s lives easier, whether it be through having products well stocked, to serving food in a timely fashion in restaurants to even having internet for all customers in airports. This type of service might event have something to do with letting pedestrians cross the street without fear of being killed.  Mostly though providing customer service comes down to treating others, no matter what their beliefs or how they look, in the same way in which we would like to be treated and respected, no matter where we choose to work. 

Position: Lover of Life-Change Agent

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