Sunday, March 9, 2008

Customer Service in America V. Customer Service in Pakistan

I pulled up to a gas station the other day to get a refill for my CNG tank. I went through the usual routine of making sure the meter was set to zero before filling up. I waited while the attendant completely filled my tank anxiously anticipating the tell tale groaning sound of pent up pressure. A quick burst of white gas from the switch off valve let me knew the deed was done.

I reached into my pocket to get my wallet when, out of the blue a nice old man with a big grin comes up to me and extends his hand. My first reaction was of dread, so this is how it feels to be robbed? At least this guy is nice enough to ask for my wallet instead of snatching it. He kept his arm extended and added the words “Asslam-o-Alaikum” to his jovial greeting.

“Hmm” I thought so he’s not here to mug me “Then what?”

“How was the gas?” my initial reaction of dread turned into astonishment I had no idea what he was talking about

Seeing my bewildered expression he gleefully pointed to the pump “How was it? Did you like the pressure?”

A dim realization began forming in my mind “Yeah…not bad.” I awkwardly stammered

“What about the mileage?”

“Uh, its pretty good.” At this point I realized he was getting feedback from me “Are you the supervisor or something.”

“Yes my name is Amin. I am at your service let me know what I can do for you.” I had to catch my breadth I couldn’t believe the words he was saying. No one presents themselves like this to their customers in Pakistan. Partly because the customers go overboard and ask too much of the proprietor or he knows that he’s got crummy merchandise and would rather run home to mommy than face dissatisfied customers. Also there is a very harmful mindset prevalent amongst small businesses, which dictates that the store is doing a favor to the customer and they should be grateful they’re getting anything at all. That’s why it’s always refreshing to run into people like Amin.

Customer service is loaded with red tape in the US. Often times you’re given the run around by call center operators. But you can take hope in knowing that you put the wheels in motion. I once returned a Michael Crichton book that I bought at a department store. The clerk gave me a cold look and told me that this wasn’t a library. She returned my money anyway.
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