May 22

Whirlwind Lessons in Customer Service

by Joel T. Fagsao

 One day in the last days of April, at 9:00 P.M. I went to St. Luke’s Medical Centre in City for a referred medical procedure.   I proceeded to the hospital’s pathology department and waited for my turn to be served.  While inside, I noticed the sign on the window which read “Receiving.”  I proceeded to the window and was told to follow a staff member who led me to another room.  The window sign after all mean that it was for receiving items from within the hospital.    Apparently, the sign on the window was not specific about the matter.  I was then led to another room where they received the referral.  I was told to wait at the lounge area and while waiting, watch the show on TV.  Then I was advised to make payment to the cashier’s office.  I was given the directions and when I went in; I got a customer number and proceeded to the far end of the sofa in the small room.  Then, a lady approached me and asked if I wanted coffee, I was a bit hesitant to say yes, and then I noticed it was compliments of the hospital.  The lady had my coffee in a jiffy- a welcome respite as I had just arrived from a gruelling 7 hour trip from Baguio to Manila.


In 30 minutes I was done with my transaction.  I went out of the hospital and took a seat near the emergency entrance.  I decided to rest and “people-watch.”   I noticed that whenever a car would approach the emergency entrance, the staff on duty would immediately get a wheelchair and bring it near the car’s doors.  Then the patient would be gently assisted on to the wheelchair.  For an hour I watched the same scene happen to every car that approaches the emergency entrance.

In contrast, last week, while I drove my van to the Bontoc General Hospital’s emergency entrance at about 7:30 in the evening, I stopped a few meters near the stairway side and put on the hazard lights.  I was to -my mind- just to park for a very short time to pick up an oxygen tank my family was to borrow.  I put on my hazard lights because to my thinking it would help warn incoming vehicles who might be rushing in an emergency situation. 

Lo and behold- the security guard on duty quickly moved towards me and was talking about something I could hardly comprehend until it has come to my understanding that the guard was ready to shoo me off from where I parked.  I politely explained I was parking for a short time and was there to pick up an oxygen tank-for the family to use in transporting a family member-who needed further treatment in Baguio. 

The guard ordered me to put off the hazard lights and in his words “off mo dayta ta kabutbuteng itsurana..” I really did not mind being ordered what to do if it is for a good reason but I got pissed off because the guard was obviously under the influence of alcohol.   I said to myself, I do not deserve this kind of treatment in my own hometown and I said out loud, “apay nabartek samet dayta kadwa yo?”.  To meet someone on duty –and drunk is to me appalling.  

I just brushed off the incident and while waiting at the hospital lobby.  I was in a situation, where I was the one in need of assistance and for humanitarian reasons was granted by the hospital considering that my family member was not at present a patient in the hospital.  Thus, making a scene about it would make matters worse.

I reflected- that for the many years of my stay at the Department of Trade and Industry, we treated clients with utmost respect whatever is his or her status in life, whatever is his or her bearing.  It was an agency policy for all staff to be on their toes and provide utmost attention to the needs of walk-in clients.  Add this to the fact the DTI is in preparations for alignment with ISO standards.  Getting ISO certified, means, being audited by an independent certifying body (private) if we are adhering to our quality policy, our quality manual, and our manual of operations-the bottom-line of which is to provide the best service we can give to our clients.  It will be noted whether every Juan and Juana who will come into the office will receive the same kind of utmost attention.  One thing that will be eliminated in being ISO certified is the buck passing among staff.  “Ay umay kayo no bigat ta awan diay akin hawak dita nga trabaho…” will never be a dialogue in an ISO certified agency.   Every customer will also receive uniform treatment, no biases. 

The people at the reception desk, security personnel, officers of the day, anyone that comes first in the line of sight of a customer/client play a critical role.  Any actions that they show will create a first impression about the organization they work for.  As private firms spend on certifications, hire consultants to help them work out policies and strategies to improve on customer services, government agencies do not have a reason not to similarly be conscious on providing good customer service.  Private firms have to really work harder in the name of customer service because customers provide for the bread and butter. 

Alas, in the government service let us not also forget that after all, it is Juan’s taxes that give us a reason why we are in our present positions.  We owe it to the Filipino citizen who ironically does not receive first class service in land of his birth.