Do you know what you should expect from employees in the Czech customer service industry, regardless of it being in Prague or any other city in the Czech Republic? The answer is very simple. Not much. It’s almost like plying Hide and Seek. Once in a while you will run into someone who may be pleasant and smiling while waiting on you. If and when you do, I highly recommend that you cherish those moments as they don’t come very often. Read my post about an absolutely delightful dining experience. Most of the time you will run into someone with that typical “sour face”, who will look bored and annoyed by your existence and who will make you wonder why you even bother spending your own money at their establishment.
I went to a TMobil store in Ostrava (Ostrava is about 3 hours from Prague) to find out how to disable one Internet feature from my phone. I walk in, the place is empty. I say Hello to a customer service representative sitting at the counter reading. He looks up, says Hello back to me and then asks me how he can help me. He looks back down while I am explaining my problem to him. Rude! When I am done, he looks up again, hands me a TMobil brochure and says that everything I am asking about is explained in it. Hmmm, I pause, think, let my blood boil a bit and then proceed. “Thank you. That solution doesn’t really work for me!” I am a little bit more forceful the second time around and I point out to him that I didn’t just drive all this way to get a brochure. After repeating my problem to the rep again, he grabs my phone and types a text message to some special TMobil service number located in the brochure (and yes, he did make it very clear to me that this number was in the brochure). A few seconds later I get a text message from TMobil advising me that the Internet feature I was inquiring about has been disabled. I look at the rep, he looks at me with this smirk on his face. I could read the subtitles above his head… see dummy, just like I told you, just like it is described in the B-R-O-CH-U-R-E. I didn’t even dare asking him for additional help. I wanted to purchase a better, more expensive TMobil plan that would fit my needs. I actually wanted to spend more money at his store! Unfortunately I had a feeling that the direction I would get would sound something like this: ” It’s in the brochure!”. Defeated, I collected my belongings and my money and left the store. Now I have to spend more time driving around searching for another store that will offer advice and accept my money in return for a pleasant and customer friendly service. My TMobil hide and seek game has officially begun.
The weather was absolutely beautiful. My family and I decided to enjoy our Sunday lunch in a restaurant in the mountains near a beautiful new golf resort called Celadna. We have visited this restaurant several times in the past. The food is delicious, the wait staff including the restaurant manager have always been absolutely outstanding – smiling, welcoming, attentive to our individual needs, finding ways to keep my 4 year old nephew entertained. If you take all that and combine it with the breathtaking view of the mountains, you can only describe the experience as priceless. Our last visit was a little bit different though. My sister ordered a pasta dish with shrimp that had no flavor. When our waiter came by to ask how everything was, we did mention to him that her dish was lacking flavor. The waiter shrug his shoulders and told my sister that she must have made a bad decision ordering the food, that the food just didn’t work for her. Really?? Since we were hungry, we decided to tackle this problem with some humor and positive approach. We asked the waiter for additional spice and butter. When he brought it over, we mixed it all together and added it to the penne pasta. And you know what? It actually turned into something quite delicious! The waiter watched us following the entire cooking process. He seemed to quite enjoy the fact that we were so resourceful. I am not sure what the other customers thought though… When I asked the waiter if it was a common practice to serve food that customers have to finish cooking at their table, he quickly replied: “Well, at least they will like what they eat!”. So, there you have it! You don’t like your food? Don’t worry! Ask for some ingredients and cook it yourself, at your table. Don’t expect an apology. The phrase “I am sorry” may not exist in the Czech customer service dictionary. By the way, didn’t Kramer have the same idea in one of the episodes of Seinfeld?
One really has to make the best of poor customer service in Prague or any other Czech city as the concept of western hospitality has not yet arrived or been introduced to most of the industry. Humor and low expectations may be our best defense for now until things start to improve. How can they improve? More competition and more consumer knowledge. The more we grow the private sector and the more consumers learn to value their money and precious time the quicker we wead out those that have no business being in the customer service industry. Consumers have to become more educated about how they should be treated and that it is OK to speak up when their expectations are not met. Business owners have to learn to value their customers and appreciate their business. After all, it is the customer who pays their bills. It is the customer’s word-of-mouth that drives repeat business.
My plea…let’s continue raising the bar pointing out these simple and basic rules of good customer service to everyone out there hoping that it will bring some well needed and deserved change.