I’ve discussed the lack of customer service in the Philippines many times before. On occasion I’ve even mentioned when I’ve received what I felt was good customer service, as it is not that common here. Don’t mistake customer service with friendliness, as the later is very common.

One aspect of customer service that is especially troubling is the lack of product knowledge. Not only knowledge of the product itself, how it works and it’s features, but often where the product can be found in the store. If they even carry it all.

I quickly learned to quit asking employees if they carried a certain product and/or where it could be found. Asking that question usually leads to a circus of one employee to the next trying to find someone who might know the answer or even understand what you are asking in the first place. Invariably that leads to a lot of time spent to hear “wala stock, sir.” Even if true that doesn’t tell you if they actually carry the product and are just our of stock, or if it’s something they don’t carry.

I usually just plod aisle to aisle and see for myself. It takes about the same amount of time, and I get much more direct feedback. It’s not a perfect system, but it works for the most part.

Another option that doesn’t seem as apparent, but works a surprising amount of the time, is to ask the security guard instead of the employees. Why would a security guard know more about the stores product then the employees? Well there are a few good answers for that.

Many of the employees working here, way too many, are on contracts of 5 months or so. This is done so the employer can avoid paying PhilHealth and SSS. Therefor the employees are in a constant state of turnover. They generally do not stay at a place long enough to become knowledgeable.

Knowing that they will only be there doesn’t give them much motivation either. A few see it as a way to advance or move on to a better job. Most just see it as passing their time and will do just the minimum that is required to get by.

Additionally the employers do no empower these employees. In fact, they strike the fear of god in them. If they were to ever make a decision on something that was outside of the norm, they would surely be fired. At least that is the impression given, and I think that is what most of them feel.

Security guards on the other hand seem to be much more stable. I get the impression that these are good jobs, and I see a lot of pride in many of them. It is common to see the same security guard working at a store long past the revolving door of regular employees. The better guards take a real interest in their assignment, even though they are really working for the security agency.

These guards will do much more than their normal duties, too. I’ve seen the fellow in the photo bus tables, help with deliveries, set up newspapers and hand them to customers – all in addition to his normal duties at Starbuck.

I’ll go up to a security guard and ask for help now. If they don’t know, they have a good knack for finding the employee that does know. They are aware of who’s been there, and who is in charge. Amazingly enough though, they often do know.

The prevalence of security guards is startling to those visiting the Philippines for the first time, at least coming from places such as the US. I no longer think about the fact they exist at practically every business. They are just part of the package.

I’m not sold on the fact that they are offering that much more security, but they do offer a service. I feel it’s a situation that’s good for everyone. Give them a try next time you can’t get help. You might be surprised.

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