Service with a smile is nice, but let’s get it right first

I’ve been working in the BPO industry for almost nine years now: about a year in customer care and the rest in outbound collections. Personally, I find it more challenging to provide better customer experience when calling people up to for payment on their overdue bills. Still, customer experience is one of our main driving forces. Our jobs, our brand, depend on it. I mean without them, we wouldn’t stay in the business, right?



I’m not the type of customer who makes unreasonable demands, who throws a bitch fit and asks for the manager at the slightest disagreement or discomfort. I just want to get the service or product I paid for in the first place. I mean, doesn’t everybody? Is it too indulgent, selfish even, to expect decent service from merchants or companies whose very businesses depend on customer relations?


Couple of weeks ago when my friends and I went to Binondo, we decided to stop for some drinks before heading home. We picked a nice looking café along Ongpin Street. We ordered shakes, tea and coffee all around. My friend looked over the menu and picked Bailey’s coffee under the Cold Coffee list (there was a separate one for Hot drinks) because she was all tired and hot for from walking all afternoon, so a cold drink sounded good. She gave her order to the waitress and a few minutes later, she came back. “Iced coffee po?” she asked. We told her we didn’t order the iced coffee, we ordered Bailey’s coffee (which we understood to be cold and have some liquor in it, right?). She came back again with a cup of steaming coffee. I sniffed it and it smelled like a normal espresso. We called her attention about it. First she said that there was an error in the menu; Bailey’s was supposed to be under the hot list. So my friend wanted to cancel the order. The waitress then said, “Kunin ninyo na po kasi sakin po macha-charge ulit yan.” At first we resisted. Should we pay for her and their menu’s supposed mistake? Does it mean all customers who ordered it expecting a refreshing cold drink but will instead get a jolting bitter cup of coffee, are just supposed to suck it up and just shake their head saying, “Sige na nga kawawa naman yung ale eh.” I do admit nobody’s perfect and are prone to mistakes, but when they do, they should at least have the decency to own it up.


Just this weekend I had another nightmarish encounter with my daughter’s uniforms’ seamstress. I was extra cautious this time because I had been in this same scenario two years ago with a different lady. I brought the materials to this patahian along Lopez Avenue just after I bought them from Mang Tino’s across the street. The seamstress and I agreed on the pick up date – June 1st, a good two weeks away – since I won’t have much free time to go back and forth to her. A week later I texted her to remind her of the pick up date; no reply. I assumed all was well and probably the lady didn’t have load. On the pick up date, Saturday, I went there and was told it wasn’t finished yet; she asked for an extension until Friday. I asked if it could be finished and she assured me yes. I conceded but warned her this better be sure because I really don’t have anymore free time to pick it up, have them all washed and ironed for my daughter’s first day on Monday. I requested my sister to pick it up for me since I was at work. Saturday morning my sister told me the seamstress told her it wasn’t ready yet and asked that we pick it up later that afternoon.


I was already getting a bit upset at that point so I went there right away, only to find my cloths still in the bag I brought it in, untouched and gathering dust in a corner of the patahian. The mananahi was shrugging it off saying, ay pasyensya na hindi pa nagagawa e balikan mo n lang. Come back when? When Ging is in high school? I was speaking to the lady in a controlled voice trying not to go ballistic (I was asking the Lord for some temper check, God help me!) but she could tell I was upset. Heck yeah I was upset and I could feel my voice rising that time. I asked her why she accepted the job in the first place if they couldn’t finish it on time. She just kept saying, e pasyensya na nga eh, okay na, okay na, and she was giving me the cloths back and my deposit cash, as if trying to get me to leave already, as if my presence there was such a big inconvenience.


They accepted the business, promising service and delivery and when they couldn’t, pasyensyahan na lang? Ano to, parang sugal lang, kung magawa nila, panalo, kung hindi, sorry na lang? It’s bad business practice. The thing is, I found out from other people this mananahi had a habit of doing that – nambibitin sa trabaho at nanloloko ng mga customer.


How sad. After the initial frustration wore off, I felt sad for the woman. Sad she couldn’t conduct her business with integrity, sad that eventually masisisra talaga siya sa mga tao, sad that she gets her kicks off duping clueless customers who chose to trust her word in the beginning.


I don’t recommend being rude or berating someone unreasonably if by chance the product or service we expected fell short. Or worse, using force, threats and profanity. That’s just bad manners. I’ve had my fair share of verbal abuse over the phone over the years, and I’m glad when I’m on the other side of the phone as a customer myself, I never used that I-also-work-in-a-call-center attitude of entitlement some are so fond of using. Just because we get trained to use an American twang doesn’t make us better than other service reps.


But if we get bad service or got conned into buying something substandard, there’s nothing wrong about speaking up. Patience is not being a doormat or a silent fool; it means having the self-control to talk things through with civility, not about finding out who wins the argument or who gets to be proven wrong. Pagiging pasyensyoso is a darling Filipino trait, but it should not be used as an excuse to get taken advantage of. Yes, there are times we should turn the other cheek, and then there are times when we have to point out someone’s error and correct it. That – if done and said with the right intentions and manner – is doing them service by making sure they don’t repeat the mistake and incur the anger of someone less patient or understanding.