Thursday, September 11, 2008

Service, Honduran Style

One of my pet peeves is that customer service has not arrived as a concept here in Honduras. Take the notion of a "customer." I learned that every business has both internal and external customers and that both segments are critical to a business' success. Today, I again explained to a "jefa," a department head,
that her customers are not only the subscribers and the advertisers but they are also all of the employees, including those in the sales department with whom she prefers to not speak or address either personally or via correo.

So, I find that for our staff, I am involved in class every day and the class is called..."Definitions, gringa style." Hence, a customer is anyone on your phone, in your email inbox, in front of your door or in a meeting who needs an answer, an idea, help, information or even something small like a transfer to the person who can really help him/her. And then, there are those nebulous "potential customers" that you may meet in the street, at a party, in a store or even at the bank. We meet people today who may be our customers tomorrow so how we present ourselves and how we talk to people may make an impression about the quality of our employees or the quality of our organization.

This may seem simple and obvious, but not so much here. An example: I took a friend who used to work here to Cafe Mania, for coffee and a muffin. We were given our coffee and seven other people were waited on, served and cashed out and we still did not have our muffins on the tray with our coffee. I, of course, did a most un-Honduran thing and asked "cual es su problema?" The server said..."esta bien" and continued doing what she was doing. Five questions later and a raised voice, the woman finally responded to my friend, a Honduran who was unamused. I explained, "tengo prisa" meaning, I was in a hurry. She nodded, smiled and waited on someone else.

And interestingly enough, one can enter a restaurant here at 6:30 p.m. and have every table empty but with a "reservado" card sitting on it. There is no one there, but they have reservations for 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. but no place to sit??? So, friends and I have explained the concept of "seatings" to various restaurant owners here. Hmmm...I can be seated, eat, and be out before they need the table at 8:30 p.m. and they would make more money! At issue...this could double the work for the waiter! If only I had a few million, I could make so much money.

But then...I would have to have the labor laws changed here but "Labor Law" is another story for another day.

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