Have you, on more than one occasion, suffered terrible customer care/service? Convinced that your answer will be an emphatic ‘yes’, be assured you’re not alone. Customer care or service sucks in Namibia!
To make matters worse, there seem to be no simple mechanisms in place to seek recourse once aggrieved. In fact, demanding the very basic on this or that when making use of services offered by various companies will instantly invite this epitaph: “you are being difficult”.
That this abuse of customers by service providers needs to stop is a moot point.
Let us now draw on various examples that speak to the culture of pathetic customer care in Namibia. Let’s start with banks/financial institutions. These outfits invariably behave as if the money on which they earn interests – their very existence – does not come from
Picture this example: Ellison once visited a Standard Bank ATM on a Friday afternoon for some cash, as he needed to travel to the village. Upon punching in instructions for a withdrawal of N$1 700, the money was deducted from his account – but not disbursed. In other words, the money is no longer in his account and neither is it with him.
The money is not automatically reversed to your account and on inquiry, you are told that this matter can only be resolved upon visiting the nearest branch in person. Upon visiting the branch – at your own cost – you’re told to fill in some paperwork needed for the reversal.
Once you’re done filling in the paperwork, you’re scandalously told that your money will only be reversed within a period of seven to 14 days!
Ellison’s issue was resolved in less than seven days after he visited the bank, but only as a result of engaging in an impassioned exchange with a bank supervisor responsible for customer enquiries. Alas, he could not travel to Okondjatu.
The seven to 14 days is apparently ‘company policy’. Invariably, any customer’s issue that cannot be resolved instantly is thrown under the hogwash catch-all phrase of ‘company policy’. The latter usually signals the end of discussion.
Institutions that tend to utter ‘company policy’ should be reminded that apartheid was also a ‘policy’, but was it just? Clearly, it is utter nonsense that the customer must suffer prejudice because of a mechanical fault of an ATM.
Standard Bank is not alone when it comes to rendering dismal customer service and endlessly frustrating their clients. First National Bank is yet to reverse an amount of N$3 000 to Rui after a drawn-out process of paperwork since the beginning of this year. We are living in indescribable misery at the hands of these financial giants.
Another example relates to retail shops, such as supermarkets or clothing shops. In the latter category, the ill-treatment sometimes assumes racial prejudice.
It is not out of the ordinary to witness white folks being allowed to exit retail shops without their bags being searched. Picture a white folk in front of a black folk in the procession of exiting a retail shop. The white one will invariably be allowed passing without ‘harassment’.
Appears the black folk – who seems to be perpetually an object of suspicion – and the need for a ‘random search’ ensues. This ‘random search’ is not bloody random! Our legal learned friend – Sebastian Kandunda – can perhaps enlighten us about any law that says security guards must pay particular attention to black bodies whenever they are executing their random searches. Should there be no such law (pun intended), then this exclusive scrutiny of black bodies needs to be ceased!
Examples of poor customer care in Namibia are perhaps too many to recount here. What is incontrovertible is that there is a serious problem that requires urgent fixing. We once came across Namibia Consumer Trust – of one Michael Gaweseb – and we don’t know if this outfit still exists. A basic internet research suggests that their last Facebook entry related to customer rights was in 2016.
Customers in Namibia are abused/bemused on a daily basis and serious intervention is long overdue. With regards to banks, a common folk is invariably afraid of engaging in an exchange with a bank manager because of the obvious unequal power relations.
As for retail shops, not everyone is up to the challenge of ‘causing a scene’.
In the final analysis, there appears to be an unwritten rule ingrained in the staff of service providers that they are doing you a favour and that you need them more than they need you. Will this ever end?
*Ellison Tjirera is a sociologist from Okondjatu
*Rui Tyitende is a political scientist from Lüderitz