Crossing Cultures: Customer Service

It has been great to be back in the States on furlough. One of the things we anticipated was the opportunity to eat at some old favorite restaurants and enjoy food that tasted just like we expect it to taste. But what I forgot was how the system works concerning customer service. 

Basically, businesses here in the USA pay good attention to the quality of care they provide for their customers, be it legal processes, food services or stores. The customer is always right, the employee must always be friendly and efficient, and the product or service is to be completed exactly as requested. It is something we enjoy, and sometimes abuse, if we are honest about it. How often has someone mistreated another human being due to receiving bad service? Or to short a tip and thus someone’s income because they were unskilled in their task? To those of us accustomed to demanding a high level of service, it is insulting to be left wanting. 

Not so much in Peru. Depending on the industry, you may or may not be able to expect good customer care. For example, governmental processes are renowned for disregarding timelines or paperwork requirements, plodding along regardless of how many copies have been made, how many people are still in line, or what another employee had already said. Similar experiences would be found with utilities, telephones, internet, cable, and other such companies. They contract out to smaller operations, who move at an unhurried pace. And picking up packages at the post office tips the list of ridiculous methods, as every box requires 2 passport copies on file, even if multiple boxes are being picked up at the same time. Efficiency seems completely ignored. Needless to say, it can be frustrating. 

On the other hand, however, you can also find excellent service in many situations. Small business owners and private vendors work hard to make sales on a personal level. Market vendors, restaurant waiters (if not the cooks!), grocery baggers, and private employees generally make a point to please their clients if possible. I even had “my fruit lady” at the market hide her last kilo of Fuji apples under the Royal Gala ones, knowing I was coming by and would want some. Another day, a pharmacy employee literally ran to another store location to fetch my prescription because the original store was out of stock. They see that they benefit from doing their job well, so they try harder. 

When it comes down to it, that’s really what crosses cultural lines. Sadly, self-interest is what motivates all of us to do something for someone else...when we can see how it benefits us to do so. Whether it is a boss’s influence or our own desire for more success or income, we are best motivated for improvement by expecting to experience our own positive results. 
It is difficult to learn to serve for the sake of serving, through love, as Christ did. He served to see a life improved. Can we do the same?