Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Is “Good Namibian Customer Service” an oxymoron?

((First appeared in Consumer News Namibia Magazine September 2013)

The dictionary defines the word oxymoron as “a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms” for example “ground pilot”, “living dead” and “dark light”. This month I wish to add “Good Namibian Customer Service” as a term which is contradictory.

Normally I am an optimistic person to see the positive outcomes of any situation. But this past month has given me a very trying situation to deal with. Let me explain:
A friend of mine has applied for a work permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs since 2010. He applied via our Embassy in London and was told it could take three to six months. In the meanwhile, he received a standard tourism visa to visit the country to explore the options for doing his study research for his Doctorates thesis. The work he would be involved in is assisting on the farms where the research is being done. The work itself is voluntary in nature and he would receive a volunteers’ allowance. So no danger of taking employment from a Namibian and the research work would in fact create employment during the five year study period. After returning to England and waiting for the required period he contacted the Embassy who still had not got a reply from Namibia. He was advised to apply for a work visa (three months) and it would be soon forthcoming.

That was three years ago. Since then he has had to apply for multiple extensions for a work visa and all were granted till early this year. The extension was not granted and he had to return to London while a new application for a work permit was made. Apparently the original work permit application (from 2010 has been mislaid.

Once again an application was made for a work permit as well as for the work visa which would allow him to return. The work visa for three months was granted in May 2013 and he returned to finalise an agreement with the Polytechnic of Namibia and his home University to do complementary research work with students from both organisations.

In late July he again requested for clarity on his work permit as well as the extension for his work visa if the permit application was not yet complete. Imagine his surprise and dismay when he was informed that his application was lost. The supervisor admitted that he had seen the application personally – we had requested an employee to check with him upon submitting the application that the paperwork was fine. Unfortunately neither the Supervisor nor their Archives could find a copy of either application even though a file number was allocated.

So once again my friend had to complete the entire application. This is not as easy as it sounds as he had submitted the original police clearance certificates, radiological reports, etc. with the application again after the first file was lost. Luckily most of the documents had been scanned so we were able to print a reasonable facsimile and this was accepted by Home Affairs.

My question must then be to our Namibians whether they are working at government or private institutions, “Do you know that the Customer is King?” It surely does not seem that way.

1 comment:

Manfredt Herunga said...

Hi Mr. Louw, I sympathise with you but do believe that your question is misdirected (if I my be bold undirected). Your question should be primarily directed to the leaderships of our Public (I believe primarily) and Private Sector institutions.

I mean, I have not seen a rating system for customers at any of the public sector services points (speaking under correction as I personally avoid public sector as much as possible due to ill treatment) or have been asked to participate in a survey designed to determine customer satisfaction within our public sector after having made use of their services.

From your article I ask myself is the Archives manager and team rated and incentivies awarded for efficient archiving procedures, furthermore are the Clerks and the customer service point team (for lack of better words) at Home Affairs rated and incentives awarded to employees for improvements in queuing times, speedy and effective resolution of enquiries etc. This are but just examples of how one can determine and ensure continues improvement of customer experience and the lack of any queuing systems, customer satisfaction surveys etc (once again speak under correction) tells me that our satisfaction is not the mandate of the leaderships otherwise they would be measuring it and seeking to improve on it.

Some people do the things they love thus do them well out of passion, but lets face reality most of us do the work we do because we need to put food on the table, so we go to work and do the things we are mandated to, a mandate set by our leaderships.

Not to defend the clerks and cashiers of our Public Sector but to have a Customer Centric approach to their work is not mandated in their roles nor their contracts of employment.

I blame their bosses and the bosses if thier bosses for our dissatisfaction because they don't mandate it of their subordinates and in general their institutions at karge to ensure our satisfaction.

In my opinion