Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saudi-Arabia: Pathetic customer service

Sometimes I wonder why all the shops in Saudi-Arabia have employed so many shop assistants. There seems to be a man in every corner of the store yet actual customer service is unheard of.
I guess the cheap labor enables the employement of 10 Indian, Pakistani or Philippino men instead of one very efficient salesperson seen in western countries.
The sad fact which probably everyone living in Saudi has faced is that the majority of shop assistants seem to be clueless, indifferent and lazy.

I've given up altogether even bothering to ask for advice to save myself from the utter frustration that results from trying to get customer service from them.
My husband on the other hand is more tolerant and will often go and ask the shop assistants where a certain product is located. However 90% of the time I have gone and found the product on my own before the shop assistant even understood what my husband was looking for. A frequently heard response to most questions is "I don't know".

Another annoying aspect of dealing with the shop assistants is that if they don't know where an item is located (which is majority of the time) they will point you in a random direction and leave the scene.
On occasions the shop assistant will say "we don't have this product" but countless times I have managed to find it after a while of searching. Once we were unknowingly standing right next to the item and the guy is convincing us we don't have it.

Lately my husband and I have been on a quest to find proper baby strollers and a car seat and we finally found some in Toys R Us. So my husband asks the shop assistant that's responsible for the stroller/car seat section of the store some simple questions. To elaborate the "quality" of customer service you get, here is how the conversation went:
My husband: Excuse me, what is this? (pointing at the attached base of the baby car seat)
Salesman: It is the same as the stroller sir.
Husband: No I mean what's this part for?
Salesman: It is Peg Perego.
Huband: No I mean what is this part here used for?
S: It is a car seat sir.
H: Yes of course it's a car seat, but how does this work? (still pointing to the base part)
S: It is for the baby.
H: Yes I know what the SEAT is for, but what about this base?
S: I don't know. (starts trying to remove the car seat from the base without succes.)
H: Is the car seat attachable to the stroller?
S: No sir.
At this point I told my husband to try it himself because I remembered seeing it online. So they try to attach the seat to the stroller but it doesn't work out. The salesman says once more that it is not possible, chuckles to himself and leaves the scene.

Does this sound like professional customer-friendly service? Or more like asking questions from a random guy off the street? Why don't they train these people? Or maybe they just don't care?Wouldn't it be more cost effective to hire one professional shop assistant than to have random men hanging around the store?
Once we got home we checked online and the car seat does indeed attach to the stroller, and the base is meant to secure the seat more safely in the car.


Anonymous said...

"I don't know" "we don't have this product"
Happens in the Emirates a lot too. We also were told they don't have the product and then we found it by chance next to us. Many people in customer service in different places (not only shops) have this not caring attitude, they just say "No" without apologizing and trying to provide the customer with some alternative solution for his problem. My husband is impatient and complains customer service is very bad here. Recently he even started saying: don't bother asking them, they don't know anything. It happens to us that if the customer service is bad, we simply leave the shop (or restaurant) without buying from them. Maybe we are a little bit spoiled with good customer care :) Because there are very promptly people working in some places.

Anonymous said...

There are lots of shop assistants here in Turkey and generally the customer service is good. When entering a store everyone greets you and comes to ask you what you are looking for, then showing you what they have and maybe even offering you tea. However they are even too eager to sell you their products. For example when we went to a clothes store, they showed me lots of different clothes and asked me to try them on. I didn't find what I was looking for, I thought those skirts were too short/wrong material/wrong model and when I explained more clearly what I was looking for, they insisted that these skirts were just fine, not too short and then they told me that in just half an hour they could fix them better. They even seem upset when you enter a store, try on things and then leave without buying anything.

This is considered good customer service, but I wish I could just go to a store, look what they have, check the materials and try them on in peace without anyone insisting me to make a decision and buy something as fast as possible. That's why I always prefer bigger stores or supermarkets where I can search and look at things peacefully, without feeling guilty of waisting their time when I'm not buying anything in the end. I think that here most women are easily convinced to buy things whether they really need them or not, after all husband is supposed to pay... I try to have only the necessary things that I need, rarely buy new clothes if the old ones are ok and I just don't like to have lots of stuff. I enjoy giving away or selling the things which I don't really need anymore.

Somehow I expected the customer service there in KSA being like here in Turkey. I haven't visited there yet but some day I wish I could insha Allah. I hope that they will start to understand the importance of good customer service and will make effort to improve it.


Layla said...

Alice-your husband sounds like me :D I'm always telling my husband not to ask them because they won't know anyways and I don't have the patience to deal with them anymore. I rather find out myself and get the job done, not sure if this impatience has to do with raging pregnancy hormones :)
I guess we are spoilt back home with excellent customer care and thats why this type of service just seems so unacceptable!

Layla said...

@ Anon from Turkey
Thanks for commenting and welcome to my blog!
The behavior you describe does happen sometimes in KSA too.The funny thing is, it happens ONLY in the clothing shops! The guy will follow you around and try to sell you anything. It is extremely irritating because even after you tell them politely no thanks, they will suggest something else and not leave the woman alone to borwse in peace.
In Saudi all the shop assitants are male, even in the lingerie shops!

Anonymous said...

I have come across many "out of of stock" items and initially one might have gone "if only I had come sooner" or then returning a few weeks later (in good faith) should new stock have come in. Learnt through experience that unless one had actually seen these items on the shelves before, the term "out of stock" actually translates to "we do not have it, but won't admit to it" and in all likelihood not get it either. As an expat I found that communication is the most frustrating aspect of settling in, such as in a multinational setting (big tersiary hospital) where eg "uh-uh" means yes when we are used to it informally being no. Telephone conversation:
SN - did So&So have his Xray yet
Tech uh-uh
SN But So&So was sent there 30 min ago
Tech what is the problem
SN Problem is that the Xray has not been done and the patient went there 30 min ago
Tech But the Xray is done, so what is the problem?
SN You said the Xray was not done
Tech I did not say that, I said Xray was done SN??? (and thinking that not even speaking the same language is speaking the same language!).
But yes, customer service is not the operative word anymore, find in all settings, all over the world and when you do get it you consider it to be outstanding when in fact it is ones right. Patience to all and good luck.
Knop-kop (13-going-on-14yrs in Riyadh)

Suvi said...


Olen lukenut blogiasi viime kesästä ja vaikka seurailen useita blogeja, on tämä ehdoton ykkönen! Odotan aina innolla uutta postausta. Olen itse lukenut paljon Saudiarabiasta ja maa kiehtoo aika tavalla. Olosuhteisiin vedoten en pääse millään viettämään maassa pidempää aikaa, ja lomailusta olen kuullut, että ehkä ei kannata yksin (nainen kun olen) matkustaa, tai myöskään naispuolisen ystävän kanssa. Mitä mieltä olet?

Kiitos vielä erittäin mielenkiintoisesta blogistasi!

Layla said...

Moi Suvi ja KIITOS, tosi kannustavaa kuulla noin positiivista palautetta!
Tanne on tosiaan vaikeeta saada turstiviisumia. Kasittaakseni on matkatoimistoja jotka jarjestaa isommille ryhmille viisumeita, mutta en osaa sanoa miten ne suhtautuisi jos hakisit viisumia ihan yksin. Kaksi naista olis paljon parempi ja sitten jos voisitte liittya johonkin isompaan porukkaan.
Riippuu aikalailla susta itsesta etta minkalaista kokemusta matkustamisesta arabimaissa sulla on taustalla..Itse en nae suurta ongelmaa liikkua yksikseen ja tutkia paikkoja. Ihmiset kylla tuijottaa aika paljon, mut ne kylla tuijottaa jokatapauksessa :D
Jos haluat enemman jutella siita niin laita mulle vaikka mailia tulemaan!