Classifieds Service: What you can learn from the teachers who served during the elections

(Originally published Sunday, May 23, 2010)

What isn’t there to admire about the teachers who served during the last elections?

I arrived early to vote, but there was confusion and a lot of pushy people in my precinct. The teachers were taking charge, herding some to the holding rooms and instructing the others on how to shade their ballots. They never lost their patience, not even when there were complete idiots insisting on jumping the line or on the teachers locating their precincts for them. I decided to return in the afternoon, and voila! The lines were gone, and calm had been restored. The teachers calmly processed me: verified my identity, gave me my ballot, instructed me on how to shade the ovals, checked if I had any questions, and generally gave the public service fit for expensive establishments.

It’s such a shame that these teachers allegedly have not yet been paid for their services. Considering the stress they faced on that day, I am appalled at the behavior of many in the Philippine service industry. The National Statistics Office (NSO)’s January report estimates that 52.4% of the approximately 36 million employed Filipinos work in the services sector. Something is wrong when a majority of Filipinos who enter service-oriented establishments such as fast food restaurants, salon chains, and the like do not expect good service.

If you look through the Classifieds, you’ll see that a majority of the openings are for service-oriented jobs, whether at a BPO or at a large company. And yet who doesn’t have a horror story of bad service from, say, a customer service representative who, on the phone, treated you like an idiot, or a cashier who cursed and pouted when you didn’t have the exact change?

Professionalism is lacking in the service industry of the Philippines, and too many Filipinos employed in this industry have two fatal flaws: a sense of entitlement and no pride in their job. The lack of professionalism is manifested in how, say, a salesgirl will think she has the right to text friends and take photos of herself and her friends during working hours—even when customers are present. A sense of entitlement can be seen in how a hairdresser will hover around you after a botched haircut, waiting for a tip he doesn’t deserve. And the lack of pride in one’s job can be seen in behavior such as stealing office supplies and spending the entire day on Facebook while at work.

The Business Dictionary defines professionalism as “meticulous adherence to undeviating courtesy, honesty, and responsibility in one’s dealings with customers and associates, plus a level of excellence that goes over and above the commercial considerations and legal requirements.”

And these are what many of the teachers who served during the elections displayed. Let’s go over them one by one.

  • Undeviating courtesy. Yes, there are stupid customers who make unreasonable requests and are rude—but they are in the minority, and remember, customers respond to your attitude. Yes, you can get stressed out by your job. But remember: this is your job, and you owe the customer a high degree of courtesy because without them you would have no job. Remember that these teachers are basically required to do this job, whether they like it or not, and you chose to be in your service job. If they can be courteous despite doing something they have no choice about, then so can you. You, at least, are paid regularly and on time—and you have labor boards to resort to if you’re not.
  • Honesty. How often do you hang around the bundy clock waiting for 5 pm? How often have you filed overtime when in truth you merely waited for your download of a popular TV show to finish? Many teachers at the polls had nothing to hide, and were not ashamed to tell people when something had gone wrong with a PCOS machine or when people had to wait for their turn to vote due to the sheer volume of people
  • Responsibility. How often has this happened to you in a busy restaurant: the waiters avoid your eye and do ‘make work’ such as pretending to fix napkins or condiments? A responsible person is there to work, and will be sensitive to the needs of customers who need his or her attention. The teachers stayed at their posts despite temperatures of up to 36 degrees, assorted pests (of the insect and human variety), and people throwing their weight around. That’s because they kept their eye on their objective: to ensure that the election process flowed smoothly and voters were able to vote. This is responsibility at its highest form: the ability to take responsibility for the needs of others.
  • A high level of excellence beyond what is required. Certainly the teachers who served during the elections could have been rude and surly. They, after all, had to serve thousands of people, very few of whom, mind, said “Thank you” after they voted. And yet they helped ensure that the polls ran much more smoothly than in the past. Their quick absorption of the training given them about the new technology of the PCOS machines was shared with voters who needed help. In Japan, you will insult service persons if you leave a tip, because they believe that good work is its own reward. If you adapt that philosophy—just as many of those teachers did—you’ll realize that work becomes a little easier to bear.

This once a month column will tackle issues about the service industry and serve as a forum for tips from readers to those in the service industry, and for advice from service industry experts to share their wisdom with those in the same field. In June, we’d like to hear from you about the other side of the fence: How do you deal with an angry customer? Email your responses to, and the best answers will be published here and get a chance to win a gift certificate from Businessmaker Academy for their sought-after courses. (C. F. Bobis)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)


Posted on May 23, 2010, in Business Agenda Classifieds Columns, Classifieds Service and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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