Thursday, 26 June 2014

Service culture in Namibia

(First appeared in Consumer News Namibia Magazine March 2013)

I have been plagued in the past few weeks with the bad level of service I received from companies around Namibia. It has gone from a restaurant which brought the starters (oysters) twenty minutes after the main course had arrived, (the main course was a medium-done steak and should have taken much longer than shelling oysters), to a telephone call to a bank to request their latest home loan rates and I was informed that the person dealing with that type of enquiry is not answering their phone.

This led me to look again at what service is, and more importantly how do we go about creating a “service culture” in the country.
Allow me to first define the words Service and Culture.

For me the word SERVICE is “performing work for someone else”. Culture is defined as the “total inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action.”

Looking at these meanings we look at the key messages to found within these two words, namely
  • Inherited
  •  Shared
  • Values
  • Knowledge
  • Perform work for someone else

This is the message we need to make part of our normal everyday lives. As Namibians we must strive to implant a Service Culture as a “lasting inheritance of shared wisdom.” This working together will make the end result far greater than the sum of individual contributions.

So how do you become part of creating this Service Culture? Or more importantly, why do you as a customer also have to play a part in encouraging the Service Culture.

During Apartheid, one of the important weapons used by activists was the “consumer boycott”.  A Consumer boycott means a boycott adopted by consumers of both product and services to express their displeasure with the seller, manufacturer, or provider. Sometimes, customers may refuse to purchase a particular product in order to show their dissatisfaction to the excessive price or offensive action of a particular manufacturer or producer.
At this point is also important to balance what part the Service Culture plays from the employees to us as customers, and how much of the Service Culture is influenced by the relationship between the employer and their employees.

So, if a company or service supplier provides me with employees who treat me badly or with slow service, I must differentiate between the service being done to me (is it personal) or is it a business culture within that business.

I have looked again at the service provided to me by the restaurant in my opening paragraph. This same restaurant was in the news less than two days later as the owner had fired a staff member for eating leftover food. For those of you who work in the hospitality industry, you know how unappetizing the food at your own workplace becomes, what still to say of the leftovers you see being thrown every day? Looking more closely at the restaurant and the way the owners are reported to treat their workers, I will boycott such a business until they improve their treatment of their employees – which will surely bring about an improved customer service.


Sometimes bad service must lead to a moral purchasing decision by a consumer. Yes, that means I will rather go without your product or service until such time as the relationship between employer, employee and myself becomes something worthy and part of our shared Namibian Service Culture.

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