Friday, April 19, 2024
Speak Your MindSmile for me: what’s missing in customer service?

Smile for me: what’s missing in customer service?

They say not to judge a book by its cover. But the cover does matter. And sometimes, the cover can say a lot about the book’s contents. Faces, facial expressions, gestures, tones, physical build, way of dress, and skin texture can all say a lot about a person. These things may not tell the whole story, of course. But they relay their own message to their audience.

Still, the cover can actually be a cover, like the term implies. People can put on a mask (figuratively) that hides their true selves. Be it with clothes, makeup, facial expressions, gestures, or whatever else they might use to hide what’s really in there. The ugly (and also non-ugly) truth, so to say.

Personally, I like people who are themselves. Who feel good in their own skins and do not feel the pressure to hide in some mask to please an audience. For me, these are authentic people who are not ashamed of who they are, are honest about themselves and to others. Dealing and interacting with such people is often not challenging because you know what you are dealing with. Not much is unpredictable. But still, I also think that covers are important. Covers are important not to disappoint people, to respect people, and to make people feel cared for.

I have always wondered about the role of receptionists in Ethiopia. Again, I am not trying to generalize here, but most would agree that many receptionists in Ethiopia are often not very receptive, or welcoming. The first people that strike you with a sense of apprehension when you enter some building are the security guards. Then come the receptions, sadly often with unfriendly expressions – no smile, a rude way of addressing others, and not very informative.

They often look the part, but do not fulfill the main purpose for which they were hired, which, for me, is to be receptive and welcoming. What’s important is not really how she or he looks physically, but the degree to which they make me feel welcomed and cared for. That’s what matters. Sadly, they often focus on the wrong cover.

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It is not only receptionists. Customer service in general, in my opinion, is quite disappointing. We have all heard of the airport incidents and the incidents at the immigration bureau that treated customers like they are some sort of animal to be chased away with stones and verbal obscenities.

I remember back when I used to be a student in Europe, I used to notice smiles fading away across the airports that I encountered until I reached Ethiopia. So, in Europe it was all smiles at the customer counters, and ‘what can I do for you-s’, or ‘thank yous’. I used to transit in Istanbul using Turkish Airlines, and the smiles on the faces of the customer service staff there are already noticeably less warm than those I had just left behind in Europe.

By the time I reach Bole Airport, there is no longer any hint of a smile. It can be a shock for people who have been away from home for quite some time. But for those of us with relatively frequent travels, although the angry faces do scare us, we quickly adapt.

But it makes me wonder, why do staff that serve clients, be it in governmental or non-governmental organizations, usually wear sour expressions? Is it because our life troubles that are eating us up from the inside have become too much to bear to the extent of flowing out onto our faces? Is there any way we can hide our frustrations and anger when we serve customers? Is a smile too much to attempt? It makes me wonder.

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