Columnists Features

Customer service on a long distance journey

COMPETITION has compelled service providers in the transport industry, like in many other industries, to display a higher level of courtesy towards their passengers or customers for them to win their business.  
I remember a time when, as a commuter, you dared not respond to sarcasm or insults by a member of a bus crew.  We had to put up with all sorts of ridicule because we were really at their mercy, due to the limited number of buses supporting a huge number of travellers.
Today, the story has changed. There are more public service vehicles and more individuals who drive their own cars and therefore do not even use public transport.
The transport sector is much more competitive now, and apart from that, customers share their experiences and therefore when service on a particular bus company is bad, word goes around very quickly.
While you would expect bus crews to treat their customers like gold, you still find drivers who are arrogant and do not want a customer to complain.  These drivers simply have an attitude problem and it is difficult to help them.
My younger sister, Namakando, encountered such a driver. On the night of January 19 this year, she jumped onto a bus and travelled from Mongu to Lusaka to come and cast her vote during the recent presidential election.
Some of the people on the bus were going to Lusaka while some were going to the Copperbelt and Southern provinces, mostly to go and vote.
The bus started off from Mongu at 22:00 hours and should have been in Lusaka by 05:30 hours the next day, after covering a distance of 591 kilometres.
The bus only arrived in Lusaka at 09:00 hours, much to the annoyance of most of the passengers.  Namakando, who travels on the same route using the same bus company quite often, explained to me what caused the delay.
She said that after they had started off, some passengers thought that the driver was over-speeding.  They pleaded with him to slow down and drive with caution.  The driver defended himself stating that he was not over-speeding because the bus was pre-set to a limit of below 120 kilometres per hour.
He also told the passengers that he had over 20 years driving experience and knew what he was doing.  The driver then went dead slow and the bus was probably now doing between 40 and 60 kilometres per hour.
I found that kind of behaviour inappropriate and a show of lack of respect for customers who pay the driver’s salary.  If he had not been over-speeding, passengers would not have complained.
Drastically slowing down was more of a protest and a way of communicating to his customers that they had no say over the way he was driving.  This driver probably did not realise how much his behaviour or reaction caused his customers to waste time.
A Kitwe based reader Brian Mukosha believes that time is very useful in our lives and that everything we do must have some time allocated to it.  He states that we have to make rightful decisions based on our priorities. And as we do our work, we ought to know things that are to be done in between our jobs so as not to leave anything undone.
Proper usage and allocation of time will always bring us due rewards regarding our income, resources or opportunities.  He stresses the importance for everyone to use time wisely, refusing to waste it.
It is strange that a driver, who believes in former United States of America President Benjamin Franklin’s belief that ‘time is money’, could behave in this manner.
Time is in fact, worth more than money. If you lose money, chances are high that you can always find an opportunity to make some more money. But if you lose time, it is gone – you cannot manufacture it.

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