Customer smiles

Customer care in Asia. Where is it? Is my question.

Is it the smiles which greet you at every juncture, which are backed up by nothing else? I keep hearing about this amazing customer service in my adopted country of The Philippines, but only on 1 or 2 occasions during my 10 year stay have I encountered it.

When entering a building of a public office, or in this case a restaurant, you are greeted with “Good day Sir/Mam”(quite often you hear “yes sir”, and think ” I don’t remember asking a question”) and then it all falls apart.

You are shown to your seats/table, then the staff ‘disappear’ This is apparently to give you time to relax and look at the menu. But don’t I need a menu to be able to look at it?  So out come the semaphore flags to get the attention of the waiters who are busy ‘looking at their cellphones’ or socialising.

Finally, one sees you and comes over. “Can i help you sir?” “Yes. Any chance of a menu some time today?” Apologies given and accepted.  After a quick perusal of the menu, out come the flags again. “Are you ready to order sir?” (No, that is why I have been standing furiously waving my arms about, because I felt like dancing). “Yes please” One order later off he trots to the kitchen. So now we relax while waiting for our food. After about 15 minutes the waiter comes over, “Sorry the fish is not available” “So why did it take you 15 minutes to discover this?” (no answer, just dipped head and sheepish grin while ignoring your complaint and waiting for you to order again).

Try again. Order taken. Wait. “Do you think we can have the drinks we ordered while we wait even longer for our food?” “Ah yes sir…, what did you order?” Order for a second time. Wait.  Fast forward 20 minutes. “Your order sir”…..  “I did not order this” …. “Are you sure sir? “(my blood starting to boil), “yes I am sure”. (Goes to kitchen to check. Returns). ” You said the chicken” ……..”I said roasted chicken, not chicken Cordon Bleu”…… “Sorry sir” (then slight retreat in the hope that you will decide to eat it because it has been cooked). “Can you change it for my order?”……. “You want to change your order sir?” (no, I want the pleasure of eating something I did not order), “Yes please”. Waiter standing, instead of going to change order. “So is there a problem?” “Sir, what will your new order be?”(unfortunately you can’t make this stuff up)” well how about the dish I originally ordered, which you took down?”…. “Ah, Ok sir” By this time, your partner has already finished eating, due to the lack of comprehension of the ‘eating together’ concept from restaurant staff. The one thing which the ‘exceptional customer service concept’ has not dealt with, is the ‘eating at the same time as your dining companion’ concept. Cook and serve, regardless.

When going to many restaurants here in the past, I have learnt to request that the meals be served together, which draws ‘questioning looks’ (“what does he mean? Why does he want both meals served together? That’s a new one on me!!!”) So after the meal has finished, and you are deciding what to end with, the flags come out again to get the menu once more. “Could I have a glass of red wine?” (Invariably there is no wine list due to the country not being know as wine drinkers, which is ok), “Yes sir, we only have….”      “That is fine” Wine arrives. “Wow, it must really be at room temperature because it is sweating” after a sudden realisation that it is condensation on the glass ( I know glasses do not sweat, that was an attempt at humour). “Waiter, why is this wine cold?”…. “We just got it out from the ref sir”….. “But red wine should always be served at room temperature” , then you wait for the classic, creme de la creme of customer service responses.  “But here in the Philippines, this is how we do it” So in essence, the customer service in the Philippines is quite unique.

That is to say you most often find yourself walking away shaking your head in disbelief, but the question is, “is it about the wonderful service or something else?” I will leave you to decide.(The experience above is one of numerous encounters I have experienced in my time as a resident, or guest, as you are often reminded).

Anyone have any similar experiences they would like to share?


Part-time blogger with many views that need an outlet.