I’m speaking about the informal sector and below – people who barely even have jobs, but who deal with the public every day.
These are the car guards, the ladies selling loose cigarettes at kip-kip stands and spaza shops, the gents with the black bags at the robots, the window washers… Some see these people as a nuisance, but often they do provide a service. The best among them are a pleasure to deal with.
I know a man named Sabelo, whom I’ve been dealing with for almost a decade at a set of robots near my house. He’s never been less than friendly, polite and helpful. We do regular business, with him taking some of my car litter off my hands and me paying him a few rands each time.
Ironically, some of the biggest multinationals in the game don’t even show the same level of human sincerity and customer service as a humble robot guy.
I recently visited the coffee shop at a cellular service provider. There I had a horrendous service experience. There was no welcome, no smile, no menu, no TV. I was kept waiting for more than an hour as staff shouted across the restaurant at each other. In the end, they couldn’t provide a receipt slip for my meal. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
The best part of the whole experience was the parking attendant. He was enthusiastic, smiling and helpful, and created a great first impression when I arrived. He should be working at reception and representing the brand, instead of the current staff, who couldn’t care less.
The learning, for me, is that people who work at the street level are often well-versed in personal interaction, in making connections and naturals at customer service.
Service Tip: Offering someone a job is a lost art, in these days of job applications, CVs and employment agencies. But there is talent lurking everywhere. Keep an eye out for it, and don’t be shy to offer someone an opportunity.