Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Consciously Rude

I once attended a seminar on Safety. The speaker talked about 4 levels of safety behaviour. It goes something like this:
  • Level 1: Unconciously unsafe - this person is not even aware that he is behaving in an unsafe manner.
  • Level 2: Consciously unsafe - this person has probably undergone safety training, and is aware that he is behaving in an unsafe manner.
  • Level 3: Consciously safe - this person has probably undergone safety training too, and consciously reminds himself to adopt safe work practices.
  • Level 4: Unconciously safe - after prolonged practice, safety becomes a part of this person's habits and he adopts safe practices unconsciously (e.g. Sporeans buckling up whenever they get into a car).

I believe we can apply this concept to customer service by replacing the words, 'safe' and 'unsafe' with the words, 'courteous' and 'rude'.

I think many small Singaporean establishments like the HDB retail shops and hawker stalls belong to the Levels 2 and 3. Previously they mostly belonged to Level 1. But the bad economy and tough competition caused them to 'shape up or ship out'.

The other day, I bought some fruits at an HDB shop in North Buona Vista. As the lady started to count the apples that I have selected and pack them into a plastic bag, she suddently put one aside and told me curtly to take another. As my hearing was not so good, I asked her to repeat.

"Go and take another apple", she ordered somewhat impatiently. "This one is bad."

After I returned with a new apple, she toned down her voice considerably to explain that one of the apples I had chosen earlier was slightly rotten. (She was probably thinking. "This chap is not only deaf, he is blind as well.") It wasn't exactly an apology, but she must have realised that she shouldn't have adopted such a rude tone of voice with her customer.

I cannot comment about the situation in expensive establishments because I seldom patronise such places. But, I suspect mostly they are in Level 3. With the strong emphasis on customer service training, many sales staff do make an attempt to be courteous. But it is tough for them because it goes against their nature.

I am sorry to say this; but I think that Singaporeans generally are quite rude and impatient. I hope many people will disagree with me.

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