service industry in 2009
By Ramadhani Kupaza
Few would argue against the proposition that the service industry in
Arusha is broken and therefore it requires fixing sooner rather than
later. But the proposition aggregates the nature of the service delivery
approaches that are provided some of which are arguably amusing.
A visit to a video selling outlet near the Clock Tower along the Sokoine
Road reveals a service delivery approach that is comedian in style. The
salesman at the outlet occasionally leaves his customers in the shop and
literary runs out after the potential customers who leave his shop
without buying because they are unwilling to pay the amount he requests
for the items. The salesman goes out of the shop to shout at the
customers across the road to inform them that they would not find
cheaper prices for the items anywhere in town. It is difficult to
imagine a school of thought that supports such comedian like customer
On return to the shop, the salesman noticed on one occasion that a
customer from overseas had left a music CD at the counter because she
could not find a CD by the African musician of her choice. The salesman
asked the customer if he could put the CD back to the shelf. The
customer replied: “I don’t care”.
But that supposedly rude reply did not discourage the salesman a bit. He
vigorously informed the customer that he could show her more CDs by five
other African musicians. The customer ignored the offer and went out of
the shop and away. It implies that the salesman decided to become
irrelevant in order to sell CDs to the customer. Surely, irrelevance is
not an aspect of effective customer service anywhere.
Then the salesman shifted attention to another customer in the shop. The
customer reminded the salesman about the CDs that he promised to order
for him. The CDs were still not in stock at the time. The customer had
paid for the items in the past.
Out of context, the salesman confidently accused the customer for
wanting to buy outdated music the like of the music he had ordered. The
logical explanation to the salesman response is that he was making an
attempt to influence the customer to change his mind and buy CDs that
were in stock at the shop at the time. Yet the most appropriate response
would be for any salesperson to apologize to customers sincerely for not
delivering services as required. Reasons for non delivery of service can
make a customer understand the problem but they don’t satisfy customer
The salesman turned his attention to me while the customer he had just
accused of being out of fashion was contemplating on how to respond to
the accusation. I reminded the salesman about the comedy CDs I had paid
for that he promised to order for me two months ago. The CDs were still
not in stock at the time. He informed me that he forgot to bring them
from his home. He advised that I could collect them the following
morning on January 1, 2009. I reminded him that it would be Public
Holiday. He replied confidently and without hesitation that he would
open the shop half day on the day in the morning. Yet, he previously
informed me that he opens the shop half days in the afternoons.
Like the other customer I contemplated on how to react to the salesman’s
unconvincing response to my needs.
Out of the ordinary, I adopted a response. I decided that I would treat
the money I had paid for the CDs as an excuse to visit the shop in order
to watch the sales comedian to amuse myself when I pass by from daily
routines. It suggests that customer service approaches influence how
customers respond to business transactions. Service providers incur
substantial losses if the way they provide services influence customers
As a consolation, customer services delivered by the head of the road
safety department at the Police Headquarters in Arusha remind that in
some countries the police force is designated as a ‘Social service
department’. The Chief of road safety in Arusha attempts to match the
concept by greetings his official visitors politely while making efforts
to recall their names. “Are you Doctor Mushi?” He once asked a customer
as he entered the office for transactions concerning a driver’s license.
It does not matter if the customer were Doctor Mushi. The important
thing is that the Chief called a name as a gesture to provide
personalized services to his customer. He served the customer promptly.
Personalized service is the ultimate level of customer service delivery.
There are two sides of the coin as regards driver’s license services
provided at the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) offices in Arusha. On
one hand the officers that handle paying transactions are friendly and
helpful. They make tax payers feel that it is important to pay taxes.
On the other hand paying procedures at TRA are cumbersome. A customer is
required to stand on queue in order to obtain an official TRA ‘Payment
Voucher’ that is used to initiate a paying transaction. Then the
customer is required to join another queue at the bank to pay for the
transaction as indicated on the payment voucher. Finally, the customer
has to return to TRA offices to join yet another queue in order to
receive documents that authorize a tax payer to operate within the legal
tax regime. It is difficult to justify why customers should go through
so much pains in order to pay. The opposite is that it is easier not to
pay. It suggests that there is little to feel proud of the personal part
of services in Arusha.
The same argument holds for the product part of service. For example,
customers find it difficult to buy what they need in complete sets. For
example, it is normal to find hardware stores that sell items whereby
appropriate fittings have to be obtained elsewhere. Many items in town
do not perform as they specify technically. For instance, a shop in town
sells a brand of ‘silent diesel generators’ which is actually noisier
than most other brands in Arusha. The customers’ response to such
products is anyone’s guess.
While the survey to determine a customer service champion in town
continues, it is clear that the service industry in Arusha is broken
badly. It surprises that individuals or institutions have not come to
the open to fix the problem as a matter of urgency.