Columnists Features

Evolution of customer service in Zambia – II

I WISH to dedicate today’s article to the families of the 25 people who died in the Lake Kariba boat accident in Gwembe on Independence Day.  
My sympathy also goes to all those who lost their loved ones during the past week, especially my colleague Mr Chomba Kapika who lost his wife and mother-in-law in the space of two days, the late Ministry of Tourism and Arts director Lubinda Aongola’s family and the Changufu family.
My sympathy also goes to the Nalumangos, the late Catholic Women’s League senior member Mrs Faustina Mwansa’s family and late Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa’s family.  My prayer for all of you is that God will comfort and strengthen you. May the souls of the departed rest in peace.
Last week, this column looked at how customer service has evolved over the last 50 years, and I will continue with the discussion today and conclude next week.
As I stated last week, when you think of customer service back then, it was not even the focus of many consumers. The focus in the 80s especially, was on availability of essential commodities.
I remember going to Zimbabwe to visit friends and relatives a few times and they would be amused when I bought items such as Buttercup margarine, toilet tissue, Milo and Mazoe orange juice to take with me back home.
The manufacturers in Zambia tried their best to produce local items but most of what was produced was substandard. Some types of cooking oil even had a strong smell that did not go away even after cooking, and we had to heat the oil to reduce the unpleasant smell.  This, in my view, was the beginning of the tendency by most Zambians to look down on local products and opt for imported products which were more appealing, better packaged and were of better quality.
Surely, although not at a scale that it should have been, we do produce local consumables that we can be proud of and we should all promote and support the Proudly Zambian campaign.
Back then, the economy was characterised by a monopolistic environment in almost all sectors. In the area of transport, there were a few privately-owned minibuses and taxis for local and inter-town travel but the transport sector was dominated by the United Bus Company of Zambia (UBZ).
The elite either flew or used coach services such as Eagle Travel.  Conductors and call-boys would have a field day teasing and insulting commuters. I remember queuing in the Lusaka central business district (CBD) on the Chelston queue for hours on end awaiting my turn to jump onto a bus.
If any of the commuters on a queue dared a call-boy, they would at times ask people to turn the other direction so that the queue abruptly started from the back.
Boarding buses from bus stops that are situated in between routes such as Northmead, Olympia, University of Zambia (UNZA) and Chainama was a nightmare and a commuter going to the CBD from UNZA would first have to go to Chelston and then go to town and pay twice, especially in the morning.
In Lusaka, for take-aways, there were very few places. I remember the very popular Kwacha Fish and Chips on Freedom Way, another take-away behind Rendezvous which also served as a pub and Mundia’s Take-away at Society House.
Mister Rooster provided excellent eat-in meals but I am not sure if they offered any take-aways. Roadside vendors with cassava, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, maize and fritters have, of course, always been there. Some of these are probably running their own formal cafeterias now.
My fan number one, Mr Derrick Liywalii Nasando, contributing to my article last week, stated that he was born and brought up in Livingstone and he remembers ITT Supersonic Zambia manufacturing radiograms and television sets.
Considering our huge consumption levels for electronic products, he wonders where this industry would have been had we continued along that route.
Your contributions are welcome as we conclude this topic next week.
The author is chief executive officer of Career Prospects Limited, a human resource consultancy firm based in Lusaka.

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