Customers in Qatar experience substandard service from many of the country’s companies and hospitals, due to poor training, demotivated staff and racial discrimination, a series of articles in the Peninsula argue today.
In an editorial, the newspaper argues that many customer-facing staff in Qatar lack the necessary knowledge and training to handle queries; that they spend time browsing the internet or making phone calls rather than focusing on their job; and that they frequently discriminate on the basis of skin color or nationality.
The newspaper quotes a number of customers with complaints about the way they were treated at health centers, hospitals, supermarkets, call centers, restaurants and banks:
“Once, I went to the emergency section of a health center with my leg broken, in severe pain. I did not find any receptionist for a long time. When I found the receptionists, they were casual in listening to my problem. Their attitude left me wondering why I had gone there,” Abdul Rahman Al Manhali told the paper.
“Some of them (customer service staff) even see us as ignorant and consider themselves superior” Mohamed Lafeer, an expat who’s lived in Qatar for eight years, said. “It’s shocking to see such behavior even in international food chains and supermarkets. Some people at the counters behave as if they have a problem with us, and just bang down things on the table or thrust them into bags as if they are throwing them. If not as a king, customers should at least be treated with respect.”
Customer service remains a hot topic in Qatar, with past debates, like this one begun by business magazine The Edge, gaining a lot of attention.
Many residents who contribute to this debate point to the country’s kafala system, which restricts employees to one employer unless they are given a no-objection certificate (NOC) when they resign. Many argue that this lack of freedom to move to a better job demotivates staff.
And just today, this tweet on the subject by ILoveQatar founder Khalifa Haroon received a very positive response:
Getting rid of NOC’s will help improve the quality of service in this country. Why stop someone from having a better job?
— Mr. Q – I♥Qatar (@iloveqatar) April 5, 2014
@iloveqatar i agree on that one. it’s like you’re preventing someone to become successful.
— suzie☺ (@lilchuzi) April 5, 2014
@iloveqatar It’d definitely make a huge impact…… Then…… everyone would be happy….!!
— Leejohn Vaz (@leejohnvaz) April 5, 2014
What do you think? How can customer service be improved in Qatar?
The obligation and forced labour that this Kafala system has on employees is a major reason for this issue. Lot of employees are frustrated in their positions, they just do the job because they have no other choice. From my own experience in Qatar, it was very unbearable to handle my job appropriately and I never did it right. It was not because I did not know how to, but because I was not happy with my position as I had the chance to be in a better position in a bigger company. Certainly when I joined in 2011 it was okay with me as position and salary, but very soon I found out that there were no good chances for me to promote or get better salary though I do my best. In 2013, I got an offer which was double my salary, when I was refused to be released, problems began. From that time on none of my duties was done correctly. It was very hard to stand my colleagues and specially customers’ enquiries. I just singed in my office and stood in my desk doing every task with no devotion, just forced. Shortly afterwards, I presented my resignation, which was refused and my GM requested me to stay and promised some increment. I in fact cancelled my resignation and i regretted doing that later on, when I realised that i could no more stand it. That offer I got along with the better working circumstances had always been displayed in my mind in every second I spend on my desk until I gave up and decided to quit definitely Qatar. I would have stayed in my position if that company had brought me from my home country, but because I had been there in Qatar when I joined, and because I agreed with that GM to be given NOC if any thing would happen in the future, and because he broke the agreement and explained that it was the policy not to give release, for that reason I decided to come back home and stay unemployed rather that working unwillingly.
Back to our topic, the Kafala System would be still positive and favourable for both parties if and only if the foreigners in management positions respected and implemented the labour and human law correctly.
Went to Hamad and tried to register my son for his first appointment. The receptionist couldn’t put down her cell phone and ended up typing the wrong RP number in the computer. Took me 4 hours sitting in the admin office of Hamad with a screaming and exhausted toddler trying to figure out how to fix it as changed the name of another patient with that RP number and the medical records got mixed up. All because that person couldn’t put down her cell phone to pay attention to me. Hospitals and clinics should ban employees from using cell phones while on duty. That will solve it.
Was this at the General Hospital or one of the Primary Health Centres? I wouldn’t say the former provides the very best care but the difference between the two is day and night. I really, really despise PHCC and even more so with the recent changes. Some of the newer ladies at the reception have no idea what’s going and keep going back to their supervisor with everything, even with things as simple as pressing the button (labeled) that prints out tokens.
Same thing happened to me at QNB once. And they were actually baffled when I said that I wanted to take my money out.
For years I had a QNB bank account with both my name, and also the name of a completely random person who I had never met. Every now and then when depositing a check over the counter someone would point this out to me, and I’d say I already knew, and they would then say ‘well why don’t you fix it’. I would also respond by simply saying ‘because I don’t work in a bank; you do. Are you going to fix it for me?’. Then they would look blank and say it wasn’t necessary. I ended up just opening an account at a different bank, because I was concerned that the random stranger would have every right in the world to withdraw all the money in the account (assuming he knew his name was on it).
I avoid the tellers at QNB, because they’re always on their damn BBs in full view of their manager. So much easier to use online banking.
Kafala has nothing to do with bad customer service. If they are poor at their first job what makes you think they will improve if they join another employer? All that will happen is they will get paid more money for their poor attitude and crap work.
It is to do with poor management, not the ability to change jobs.
I thought Kafala was the source of all evil? Is that not the case? :p
It has it’s problems but each country has employment laws and this does not excuse poor performance. Presumably when they took the job they were happy with the money and conditions.
Yes “when they took the job they were happy with the money and conditions”, but when they do not receive increments for 8 years and not allowed to prosper, they are no longer happy.
Wow, that person is an idiot then. I wouldn’t stay for 8 years I would either find a job back home or move somewhere else for a better package. They can’t be the pro-active employee most are looking for if they can’t even look after themselves.
True, bad customer service is about a person’s attitude … but even a person with great customer service attitude, can easily be demotivated in an organization that does not provide personal and financial growth and nor does it allow him to switch jobs … Kafala as a system is not bad, but in its present format, it provides the employer with far too much unhealthy power … it provides the employer with the power to keep the same salary for years or end (all the cleaners, security guards & drivers I meet daily have had no salary increase for 8 years), it provides the employer the power to hold on to at least one month’s salary (if not more and if the employee complains then he is given his money and asked to leave the job without an NOC) … this is the reason why many of the drivers, cleaners & security guards do not come back from their leave (which they only get once in 2 years or longer). Contrary to people’s fear that if Kafala goes, there will be chaos, employers do not hire people who frequently jump jobs, it is considered a risk and those kind of candidates/employees are least likely to get the job.
Kafala makes the labor system here inflexible by creating incentives for both management and employees to keep the status quo instead of hiring and firing people. Much of these poor customer service skills come from a lack of training, true, but they are reinforced and solidified by the knowledge that nobody is going to be fired under a system that penalizes getting rid of employees. If there were no kafala, employers would be free to rapidly process local hires while employees would be free to quit jobs that they either can’t or won’t do.
This is a similar criticism of labor markets throughout Europe, where firing employees is so difficult that perverse incentives have been created that favor keeping below par or even bad employees in place because finding new ones is more expensive. Both employers and employees need the freedom to move about rapidly, especially in a place as dynamic as Qatar.
The Peninsular article reads “The airport gives a foreigner his first impression about a country”. Well, I guess that says it all.
It’s not about the kafala this is just an excuse and cop out for poor customer service. Customer service is all about training and management who understand what they are delivering to the customer.
There are a lot of staff and companies who don’t give two hoots about customer service.
But the kafala system is relevant.
Would you fire poorly performing staff if you knew you had to shoulder the cost of repatriating them? And then you had to fly in new staff from overseas?
Or would you just keep them on because it’s too much trouble to deal with it?
I love the photo of the attractive, young smiling Westerner that Doha News selected for the story. What’s wrong with this picture? Now, if she was not smiling, had a mobile in one hand and a script of “how to brush off the customer” in the other, and was packed into a room with about 100 other Asians with limited English or Arabic speaking skills, then they’d have the Oreedoo call centers just about right.
I had this weird experience with Ooredoo mosaic tv customer service. When I called and asked him that I want to subscribe the package that is going to show one particular sporting event and I didn’t know which channel its going to be, his answer was it was not his job to know which channel is going to show that event, it’s the customer’s job. And when I asked if it was possible for him to find out, he started lecturing me about what he can or can’t do. And the more I wanted to speak to him the more he started cutting me off in a very rude manner. Then I realized that I have no alternative but to put up with this as there is no competition or other choices here is Qatar. And these people know it very well and can get away with the rude behavior. When I asked to talk to the manager/supervisor, he kept me waiting for 10 minutes only to tell me that the supervisor is busy and will call me later and I never received that call. The bottom line is without fair competition and decent alternatives we are bound to be treated badly.
Take out an OSN subscription separately and ditch Mosaic
Went to Women’s Hospital with my sister. The doctor was so rude and made my sister cry. “WHATS YOUR PROBLEM?” in heavy tone. My sister, went along with patiently until she could no longer bear the inhospitable nature of the doctor which lead her to cry. By seeing a 35 year old cry, the doc started further mocking in front of her colleagues. As an expatriate, my sister managed to finish her session and came to my car parked outside crying. We wanted to lodge a complaint at the supreme health council, but whats the point.. Health centers are even worse. A patient’s 50% illness can be cured just by the friendly attitudes of the medical staff. May be even 90%. But in Qatar, only certain percentage of the population gets that cure.
At another incident, at fast food restaurant, the staff attended to my order politely, but the customer next to me was a local and the tone of staff was entirely different toward him as if she wasn’t even interested to take the order.
The social structure here in Qatar has a clear line drawn between Expats and Nationals even though both are HUMAN BEINGS. Once the line starts to blur out, Qatar would be one of the beautiful places on Earth to live on.
Had a situation at one of the local health centres recently. Went to see a doctor for my daughter. At the doctors reception I asked for her files. The lady behind was ‘busy’ texting on her phone. Didn’t even look up at me and just said ‘ok’ in a monotone disinterested way. She still carried on texting without moving. So I repeated my request and she said ‘just a minute’ , still not looking up.
So at this point my blood is boiling. In a loud but calm voice I said ‘ Would you mind putting your phone down and looking at me when you are talking to me ‘ . She stopped texting and looked at me in surprise. I mean complete surprise. She did put the phone down and got my files but it was done with a sigh of exasperation like I was being totally unreasonable by asking her to do her job. Her behavior was not unusual. There can be three of them sitting there on their phones ignoring everyone at the counter until one of them is ready to work. I’m convinced they are just texting each other.
Most of the women who keep texting on their mobiles, even when they are supposed to serve you, actually work on their father’s or husband’s visa and couldn’t care less about the customers or about the mañager’s unhappiness with their abysmal performançe. In fact, this may surprise you but the manager is rarely if ever unhappy about it because the said women cost him much less than an employee from another country – and since most managers in Doha are not a shining example of intelligence and commoñ sense, they’d rather keep these useless creatures than let them go. By the way, they are as disliked by the customers as by the rest of the company staff because the other employees cannot forgive them for not taking their responsibilities as seriously as those who support families in other countries – and the reason they don’t take them seriously enough is that Daddy or Hubby are always there to act as a financial shield and they have nothing to worry about.
These women do not leave the office to return to an empty company-sponsored room, with no-one to hear or listen to their pain. They don’t worry about sending money back home because home is in Doha and not abroad. Unlike their colleagues, they go back to their loved ones every night and work is not work but their chance to get out and meet people. To their minds, the office is fun and not the stress the others associate it with.
You reminded me the issues that I had during my pregnancy!
1. First time pregnant, during the routine check at health centre, they tried to check the heart beat for baby and could findone… wrote some thing on paper and asked me to go to Women’s Emergency ! I couldn’t
understand anything, but called my cousin who was a nurse, she told me they suspected SFD (Sudden Fetal Death), and went to Emergency, where they just checked found heart beat ok and wondered why I was sent there! You can imagine the mental state of ours!!!
2. Had to remind that the due date was yesterday to Dr,as he casually asked me to come after 2 weeks! On this he went to consult someone and then decided to admit me !
3. Had a difficult delivery, and the Drs attitude was like you are not putting in enough efforts, try harder ! :S When a senior surgeon came in he told they should not wait solong, prepare for forceps or cesarean !
If the most important service… where a human life is at stake is of this standard then you cant expect much from other services….!!!
I had the most horrible experience with a lady OBGYN at Al Ahli. She has apparantly been as horrible with many other patients who have also sent written complaints to the hospital. How do people like her keep their Jobs? Influence?
Interestingly, I actually find the service worse in the high end shops. The staff do not know the stock, rarely understand the brand and their customer service skills are woeful. However, the most annoying thing is if you happen to be in the shop when a local enters at which point you will be ignored as the assistant dives across the shop floor to fall at their feet. The only thing that stops me from losing it is the knowledge from years of experience that the assistant will spend a very long time pandering to them to no avail as invariably they look at everything and buy nothing. I had the Ooredoo experience today buying an i-phone. Female assistant, surly and very unhelpful. I’ve given up complaining about bad customer service here because no-one cares. What we need is an organised campaign with boycotts.
Good customer service only comes when staff feel empowered, valued and supported by their management not when they work in fear.
Here it’s easier to do the bare minimum that go the extra mile to resolve an issue then get fired for overstepping your authority by simply giving a free coffee.
I had no issues with Al Ahli Hospital. I do not know how much you can blame Kafala.I always felt issues such as poor attitude,training,language,simply not having a concept of customer service/relations being bigger issues.The other thing is variance in Nationalities,and please do not take me wrong here, but workers from one area in particular seem to think they know all the rules and have a hard time just getting past the point where they simply reiterate company procedure to you as opposed to seem willing to see your queries for what they are.Kafala does have its part though.Say a single female gets pregnant and creates some excuse to return to home Country to avoid issues until pregnancy is over,she could come up with excuses that are deemed insufficient with employer,thus trust is lost, and starts a spiral downward.Both employers and employees have a part in customer service and if one or both sides are not in tune,problems exist.
simply hire more Filipinos. they’re the most friendly
Friendly doesn’t mean motivated. I’ve met just as many lazy Filipinos as other lazy nationalities.
Like KJD, I have met some rather cold, indifferent and unhelpful Filipinos, who are as capable of brushing you off as anyone else, though I must admit that most Filipinos are wonderfully soft in their approach and the ones I mentioned seem an exception from the rule. Anyway, the employee’s attitude does not depend on nationality but personality and, sad to say, there are not many strong personalities in Doha that will keep serving you tirelessly and nicely despite the demotivatingly low salaries – not to mention it’s not fair to expect such extraordinary strength from people who work really long hours on their feet and know that no matter how hard they try, they will never get a salary increase.
I tried to post a longer comment on that several minutes ago and if Doha News approves it, you will see some of the reasons for this sorry state of affairs as drawn from my personal experience in Qatar.
You go to the largest hypermarket chain in the country, and at the cash counter you see the cashiers with so unfriendly and impolite faces, as if they have some personal scores remaining unsettled with you. Not even an eye contact with the customer, leave alone a greeting !!!
Customer service in Qatar? Don’t think they have discovered it yet. Wait another 100 years or so.
Something that keeps on surprising me in Qatar is how little they seem to have learned from the United Arab Emirates, who have developed along almost identical lines and who have faced the same kind of problems.
Dubai’s solution: transparency and increased consumer protection.
Qatar should bother to learn from what has worked in a neighboring country rather than seemingly trying to rewrite an already written book.
Would you rather be seen as coming up with a solution to an intractable problem, and then begging for praise…
Or just copying the successful implementation used in a neighboring country?
There are people out there who don’t like to follow, even if they are following a leader.
re-invention of the wheel, always good for job creation.
Personally? I’d rather be successful and wouldn’t care where good ideas come from.
I understand that nationalism sometimes precludes that, however. But nationalism is not a rational mode of thinking.
Kafala system is one of the reason , we can’t deny that .When people get fed up with their management they don’t have a choice in life , either continue with their same job with all suffering all abuses and wait for the magic man in sky to use his wand . But since the magic man is not convinced yet they are bringing out their frustrations towards customers .
I had the same experience with govt. institutions for a different reason , that is not related with any abuses from employers but they feel like king instead of public servants .
I just remembered another Doha customer service classic…..A few months ago I went with a
friend to the Ooredoo kiosk at The Mall because she wanted to get Mozaic
TV / internet / landline package. The Ooredoo employee had no idea
what he was talking about and I actually ended up behind the counter, on
his laptop, showing her which packages were available. The best laugh
of all though was when a queue formed behind her as they clearly
realised that this British ‘Ooredoo employee’ was the only one at the counter who knew what she was talking
about. Comedy gold.
You couldn’t make this stuff up that’s for sure!
customer service…that odd thing!
Then again I went into Sharaf DG on Friday afternoon and had to beat the sales staff off with a stick. In 2 minutes I had 5 different members of staff come up to me and ask if they could help me. I kept saying no I will ask if I want assistance. Even when I found the product I wanted one staff member jumped right in and started pointing out all the obvious bits of equipment on the item. I walked out without purchasing and went to Lulu where I could look in peace, found the item I wanted and paid for it myself. Sometimes too much customer service is not a good thing either!
Were any of them actually wearing deodorant or could you smell them coming?
I bought a gift from an expensive kitchen supply store in City Centre, when wrapping I noticed it was broken in the box. I went in 2 days after buying it with receipt. The counter has the customer protection rhetoric in good view. Filipino sales assistant refused me to swop it for a non broken one, saying she can’t do it and must phone lady boss. Lady boss on the phone refused, saying I used it and that’s why it’s broken. I said come to the store, you will clearly see I havnt used it, it’s spotless and the grinder was broken in the box. She refused to come in and could only suggest I leave it at the counter and she would be in the next week or so. I wasn’t asking for my money, just a replacement that worked but the assistant was powerless to do anything and the owner hands off. I tried to remain calm, it was my first customer experience and complete night and day compared to customer service back in OZ. I said “what do I do, the gift is broken and I’m giving it tomorrow” Arab lady on phone said it’s not her problem I broke it, Filipino lady shrugged her shoulders and said sorry mam. The customer protection poster useless without the accompanying training and empowerment. Buyer beware in Qatar.
Thats what I’m saying.They reiterate the procedure and block their ears.
You should have called Baladiya right then and there….
I had an incident at McDonalds, it was almost 10pm in the night and only one counter was left open. I stood in this one line right behind all other customers, when my turn came up, a person with white complexion just popped up to the next counter which was completely empty with no one attending it. The lady at my counter jumped on to the other counter and asked this guy on what order he would like, this person told her that I was next and not him…the lady still asked him for the order….again this gentle man stated that I was next and to be served first. There was this strange look at her face when the person insisted that I had to be served next, disgraced she asked for my order. There is no doubt that the Kafalaa system has to be changed giving expats opportunity to shift companies and further develop their skills and improved compensation, but the prejudice of serving a classy Qatari citizen or a a handsome white person and not a simple laden brown complexion individual as myself is something we also need to speak out on.
The Kafala System is indeed a large contributor to the poor service and underperformance of staff. It just isn’t good enough to say, ‘well you were happy with pay and conditions when you took the job.’ Anywhere else, you would be able to look elsewhere if
a. you found that your pay and conditions were substantially less than your colleagues doing the same job ( in fact in Europe and UK , that in itself is illegal) ,
b. You realised just how unappreciated your work is by your boss or the client; or
c. you have no career opportunities whatsoever, despite what you were told initially.
All this leads to is poorly motivated and demoralized staff, who have no option other than to stick it out and do as little as they can get away with.
Free movement in the job market benefits everyone.
Unfortunately most of the Gulf is the same. The only countries that are different are Bahrain and Oman, which resemble other countries outside of the region in terms of labor practices. Customer service in the UAE is dreadful, and Etisalat could give Ooredoo a run for its money at any time. If you’re looking for change then go online and voice the issues via social media and blogs. Maybe then we will see change.
Was is Souq Waqif yesterday at the shop that sells old photos taken in Qatar. Asked for a discount and the lady rang her boss on speaker phone, he agreed to the discount. We agreed to pay the amount quoted. Contract formed. He rings back and reneges saying he made a mistake and doubles the price. I walked out under the escort of my wife as I was going to give him a serve over the phone. Disgraceful.
A friend of mine has paid a lot of money to Qatar Divers for training courses and every time he tries to get some training done, they are busy, always late, sick, compressor is broken excuses excuses he says. They even blame him for emailing them and demanding a reply after 3 weeks, well its a busy time and you should phone was the excuse. No you should reply to emails from a customer who has paid big money for no delivery of service and goods.
Al Ahli Hopistal – HORRIBLE experience with a doctor in the OBGYN.
Went with an appointment – I patiently waited and my number finally flashed on the display board
a full two hours after the appointed hour. Not the least bit
irritated, and in fact much thankful, I entered her room with
a pleasant ‘good evening doctor’. I saw another patient near the door getting
ready to leave and was received by the doctor with a very rude “who are you, how
can you come in, who called you in”. I was extremely taken aback at the
rejoinder and said my number flashed on the screen with her room number against
it. To which she said rather foully “please go out, my patient is still here,
wait outside and I will call you”. Quiet hurt by now I replied “But how would I
know – my number was shown and I came in”. She led me out of her room through
her nurse who kept mumbling something throughout. I waited outside and within 4
minutes the nurse came back and called me in. When I entered the room (I must
admit I was seething with humiliation) – the nurses first question to me was
what my nationality was. How was that even relevant? The doctor casually
mentioned it was her nurse’s fault because she had called the number too soon
and proceeded to ask me health related questions. There was no sign of remorse
or no apology for the putrid behavior! The brash behavior dint end there – her diagnosis and treatment for the remainder of the time was to say the least – extremely rushed and bad tempered. Wont go into the details here but this was my most horrible hospital experience ever!
I have been feeling very humiliated at the treatment dished out to me and would hate to think that any other woman going through serious life threating issues would have to deal with a impolite doctor like this lady in addition to dealing with their own problems.
Still seems to be some weird 1950s idea here that doctors are somehow “superior” – though when you meet some of them you’d have to wonder why. Google “patients rights” and the name of pretty much any first world country and you start to get an idea of the significant differences.
Kafala is not the root of the problem – Kafala simply increases the suffering caused by the main cause. What lies at the root of the problem is greed, pure and simple. Greed influences everything, from the process of selecting the right employees to deciding who has to go. Sadly, most businesses in Doha will hire a totally inexperienced candidate who will agree to work at a lower-than-normal (for the rest of the world) salary than an experienced one who knows and demands his worth. Accordingly, the quality of the services drops and, trust me, most training managers in Doha are a total joke – they simply go through the motions and don’t provide any useful training. Add in some serious personal flaws on the part of the employee and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Now multiply this pattern by thousands and you’ve got Doha/Qatar/ME.
The situation is NEVER going to improve as most managers will continue to hire inexperienced people to boost their profits and egos and will not fire the bad apples because getting a goôd one will cost them much more. The way I see it, they actually dream about finding the perfect candidate who will agree to work for nearly nothing, although such candidates know their worth. Well, how much more stupid can you get? This reminds me of the classic definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result.”