I have just finished the morning at the stockbrokers, processing my KCB rights:
First thing I did when I got there, was to talk to the askari (guard) Why – rule of queues - there was a queue outside the office, which many people join blindly, and waste an hour. The queue was for Safaricom refunds – and if you’re doing KCB or other transactions, you get admission upstairs.
At the entrance, there’s a ticker paper machine - and you get a number which will be called upstairs for you to get served. So at 9:10, I got number 436 and proceeded upstairs to sit with about fifty other shareholders all waiting for service.
There were five desks where customers were being served, and as each broker representative finished with a customer he/she pings a message, which called up the next sequential on an electronic notice board e.g. 437 go to counter 6, then 438 to counter 3.
It’s a first come first served system, easy to understand to anyone trading shares, is fair, and works. The alternative would be for us to form a long queue, perhaps all the way outside the building, but this one allows investors to sit and wait for their turn. Over the next hour, this went on well. The queues are slow, but what else can be done?
I was sitting there, reading the newspapers, when I notice one of the counters. The officer there did not ping for the next customer. He served whoever slid into the chair in front of him. He served an old man, with an assistant (probably grand daughter), then an old woman who just walked in. Then the person who was in the seat next to mine, went and got served, followed by the person who took the seat next to me.
The brokers were totally ignoring the numbering system that had kept us in an orderly state for the last hour. By 10:20 when I get served, and was able to apply for my share rights (taking two minutes), he had, by my count served seven people who did not present numbers.
I wanted to lean over and ask him why she is violating the system he is paid to serve, but didn’t and I left as soon as I was done. There are so many questions I should have asked him;
- Am I at fault for focusing on him, when 4 other counters worked well for the stockbroker serving dozens of investors?
- Am I at fault for not asking him why he did not follow procedures? Like many other Nairobians, simply bury my head in the sand and ignore the wrongs around me
- Am I a fool for not taking advantage of the opportunity, and ignoring my number (hierarchy/position in the society)?
- Is his boss at fault or his colleagues for not noticing this? I saw some of them shoo away customers, asking them to wait their turn
- Are the customers at fault for taking advantage? What he was doing is obvious to many observers in the room, and some customers change sits to be near his desk, ready to leap into the visitors chair as soon as it is vacant. Enjoy the ride is the mantra of our matatu culture. In our culture of poor customer service, employees are taught to assist all customers, and that only those customers who are brash or loud get served, while the meek and quiet will spend the whole day there. But this institution has set up an (expensive) system for orderly customer service, to serve them better (unlike others), but which was all being undermined by one of the staff
- Or is this all a misunderstanding - and was his ping machine/signal broken or defective - [like so many facilities in our society - traffic light, road signs - leading to an inability to communicate the rules?]
As I walk out and read notices on the walls, the queue is now longer than before with more patient investors even standing on the staircase.