Does Tanzanian customer service meet global standards?

What you need to know:

  • Reflecting on various encounters, there's one recurring scene that unfolds at local shopping centres where foreigners express discontent over the seemingly sluggish pace of bagging groceries.

I'm wincing as I spill these words onto the page. There's this awkward twist to my face, and I’m half tempted to type this article with only a single eye peeking open.

My fingers tiptoe across the keyboard as if they're afraid of the words they're about to conjure, but it’s high time I address this because it’s been on my mind for years. 

Unfortunately, my answer to the title is ‘No.’ I don’t believe Tanzanian customer service, particularly in the retail and service industries, meets global standards. 
Reflecting on various encounters, there's one recurring scene that unfolds at local shopping centres where foreigners express discontent over the seemingly sluggish pace of bagging groceries.

I recall an instance where an overwhelmed cashier, in tears, abandoned her post to be consoled by a sympathetic coworker. I felt sorry for her, yet I wholeheartedly agreed with the foreigners. I kept my distance and stayed silent.

Having lived in Oman, Malaysia, and the United States, I can attest that bagging groceries seems to be at its slowest pace in Tanzania.

It's a notion that troubles me since it appears the cashiers remain oblivious to their unhurried pace. I often wonder if perhaps it is a consequence of limited exposure.

Furthermore, in Tanzania's service industry, I’ve witnessed the demeanour of restaurant staff, who often appear indifferent and unfriendly.

I’ve long accepted this as part of the local "charm," but on a recent work trip outside Dar es Salaam, alongside foreigners, their puzzled questions rekindled my past observations.

“Why did the waitress greet us like that? I thought she would be happy to receive us, as there is barely anyone here." “It’s just how it is. Let’s just order,” I said in hushed tones. This wasn't the first encounter of its kind; it's become a familiar part of life for me.

In defence of the waitress, I guessed she might have been tired. Perhaps behind her lacklustre greeting was the expression of fatigue rather than disdain.

I could continue with more examples of poor customer service experiences, for example, when systems are constantly down at particular establishments.

For me and for many of you reading this, poor customer service has become the norm.  It's a reality that often goes unnoticed until contrasted with the experiences of foreigners.

In all honesty, I wonder if I am part of the problem. There was a time when I would vocalise my concerns, but lately, I've opted for silence... until today.

While I acknowledge that I don't possess all the answers and that existing data may be insufficient to address my inquiries comprehensively, I've realised that several factors, including cultural norms, resource availability, training standards, and regulatory frameworks, can significantly impact the quality of customer service in our nation.

Below are some examples derived from common challenges encountered within the customer service realms:

Cultural differences: What is considered acceptable or expected in terms of service delivery may vary between cultures, and misunderstandings can arise when these differences are not properly addressed.

Lack of training: In some cases, customer service representatives may not receive adequate training to handle customer inquiries and complaints effectively. 

Limited resources: Companies operating in Tanzania, particularly smaller businesses or those in remote areas, may face resource constraints that impact their ability to provide quality customer service. 

Infrastructure limitations: In some cases, infrastructure limitations such as unreliable internet connectivity or power outages may hinder the ability of businesses to deliver timely and effective customer service, particularly in regions with underdeveloped infrastructure.

Bearing this in mind, it's crucial that each business explores potential reasons why customer service might be perceived as lacking in the global arena.

So, I implore you as fellow stakeholders in our nation's businesses to raise our voices, not in criticism alone but in constructive dialogue and action.

Perhaps we can challenge the status quo and strive for a future where every transaction embodies a spirit of global excellence and hospitality and where Tanzanian customer service stands out as a beacon of pride and professionalism.

The journey ahead may be daunting, but with our collective resolve, maybe we can redefine the standards of service excellence in our beloved nation.

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