That’s one long header!
I was sitting inside a bank recently, waiting to speak with a banker. I watched her while she helped two other clients before me. She spoke quietly, and she never smiled. I therefore braced myself for another unpleasant experience with a Zimbo (= Zimbabwean) at work in an office. I thought to myself, why is it that tourists who meet Zimbabweans claim that they are very nice people? Have they ever been to the Vehicle Inspection Department’s offices? Or the Immigrations Department’s offices? Or even the maternity wards at Bulawayo Central hospitals? I don’t think so. Those places are scary because of the people who work there. And that was my expectation when I walked up to the banker at Stanbic Bank.
Surprisingly, the lady was one of the most helpful people I have ever had to deal with. Considering that I was trying to make an international money transfer transaction in foreign currency – something slightly difficult in Zimbabwe – she was very helpful. She did something that’s quite a rarity in my experience. I have met too many office workers who seemed to hate their jobs and took it all out on me. This lady was such a God-send. And here’s how she won my approval and respect.
1. She actually ensured that I successfully did everything I wanted to do (that is, she did her job)
Ok it sounds trivial, but try completing your business in any place in Zimbabwe in a single day. It doesn’t matter what it is. You could be trying to get some recommendation letter from a school, or trying to get building material quotations – you’re lucky to get it done in one visit. And half the time it’s because people are not helpful. Or they’re not doing their job. My favorite excuses are: “He went out, but he’ll be back in an hour or so,” “Please wait,” “Let me first serve people who have their things ready,” and “Okay, for that, please come tomorrow.”
2. She gave help where I needed it
This was one of the most difficult forms I have ever had to complete. And as many times as I asked for help, she helped me. She did even more – she suggested I do the process differently so I could save $4. And she offered to photocopy one of my documents. And she offered me her pen. And the whole time I was at a desk. Okay, if you’re Zimbo, you know I was treated like a king. If you’re not, just know that I only expected that treatment in my lucid dreams. If you’re ever in an office here, and you happen to be struggling to fill in a form, you get shouted at and you keep getting sent back to the end of the line if there’s one.
3. She was pleasant
This lady made small talk with me. I actually laughed a few times, and that helped me settle down. All the tension of trying to transfer money in forex vanished. She didn’t even show any signs of being annoyed at the fact that she had to do so much for me. Trust me, that is priceless. At some places, they don’t even look at you. They just throw forms at you. Woe unto you if you open your mouth to ask something. “Are you that dumb? Can’t you see you shouldn’t write on that line?” Or, at the maternity ward: “Shut up! Why are you squealing like a pig? Don’t bother us ‘cause we weren’t there when you made the baby!” Talk about unpleasant, harsh, rude, sick…
4. She did talk on the phone but…
…it was strictly business (yes I eavesdropped). In any case, she was waiting for me to fill in some more stuff, so she wasn’t really taking any time away from me. (This is sounding more like a relationship now). I absolutely hate it when an office worker chit-chats on the phone instead of serving me. Serving me is their job for crying out loud! And it’s funny how it all happens: (annoyed face, talking to me) “Are you really that dumb, can’t you see how you’re supposed to do this…” …(phone rings)… (smiley face) “Hey girlfriend! Did you get your hair done? … Wow that’s so cool. I want to see it! … You know, same old…Okay I’ll tell you what he said…Thank you girl…Alright bye-bye!” …(phone cuts)…(annoyed face, back to me) “You’re giving me such a hard time with you dumbness.”
5. She made me want to do business again
Okay, I had whittled down to two the number of banks I ever want to do business with in Bulawayo – MBCA and Stanbic Bank. I was ready to pull the plug on Stanbic when I met that lady. The professionalism and pleasantness of one lady made me want to stick with Stanbic Bank. She made sure that when I left, I was satisfied and ready to move on to my other business in the city. Other less helpful people do the opposite. They’ll drive you crazy until you leave. And they don’t care when you do. They’d probably be happy to have less business anyway, so they’d work less.
Anyway, it was such a refresher for me to meet such a great professional. I know there are other equally incredible people out there, and I am very grateful for them. I know they will thrive when Zimbabweans start to consider quality of service when they choose where to do business. Unfortunately, government-run offices, where one is forced to go for certain things, are the most notorious for unhelpful and harsh employees. But I hope that changes too, when the said offices make use of suggestion/complaint boxes and start prioritizing service quality.