While in Russia, I learned a lot about customer service and efficient work practices.  There were some good examples, but many more examples of what not to do.

The Moscow Metro is a wonderful illustration of efficiency.  9915 trains carry up to 9 million people daily.  There’s never any need to run for the train because another’s coming along in 2 minutes.  It’s truly impressive.  The stations are beautifully decorated too.  Unfortunately photography is forbidden so I can’t show you.

As for customer service, one of the first things we noticed was that Russians rarely smile.  This seems to be a cultural thing affecting those in authority but thankfully not the many friendly locals who volunteered their help.  Look lost on public transport or helpless on the street and you can rely on help from anyone not in uniform.

On checking into our first hotel, our own transaction was unwelcoming but also uneventful.  However, we watched in disbelief as a couple approached the counter to convey the news that their electronic room key didn’t work.  They were shooed away by one receptionist, then another, and finally harangued by the first.  She apparently had time to forcefully tell them “can’t you see I’m busy”, but not to do her job.  This same 3-star hotel had great difficulty keeping milk from spoiling.  The staff and service at our Moscow hotel were much better.  By the way, now we’re back you’d think our travel agent would be in touch for feedback, but not so far.  I’m sitting back to see how long it takes.

Some work practices we experienced seem designed to employ a maximum number of staff to deliver mediocre-at-best service.  Purchasing tickets to visit one historic home in St. Petersburg was a prime example.  First, walk past the entrance to the home to a kiosk down the street.  Purchase ticket which includes free audio guide to be obtained at office inside venue, walk to historic home entrance, show ticket to guard at the door, gain entry.  Walk 5 steps, have “Administrator” ask to see ticket.  Administrator looks you up and down but offers no information.  Follow signs to “Audio Guide” which take you down stairs to toilets and cloakroom but no office.  Back upstairs to find a closed door with 10 or so other tourists milling around outside who band together to share information that this is indeed the Audio Guide office.  Many of them are waiting to return audio guides to retrieve deposit.  Sign on door says “Technical Break” and gives hours which are now past.  Wait some more, until number of waiting tourists swells to over 20.  Approach “Administrator” for assistance who says she is just the Administrator and it’s nothing to do with her.  Eventually audio guide office is opened without apology for lateness.  Must show ticket to gain audio guide.  Head to start of tour where Administrator stops us to demand ticket and declare my husband’s small day pack too large and it must be checked into cloakroom downstairs.  Eventually see beautiful historic home and laugh about poor customer service and inefficiencies.  After all, we’re on holidays in a beautiful city, we’re learning about human nature and “what not to do in business”, and I have material for my blog.

Want to know more about the “Technical Break”?  Stop by for a visit tomorrow.


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