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Wed 4 Nov 2009 12:03 PM

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Are you being served?

The GCC needs to rediscover the age-old art of Arabian service if it is to wrestle control back from ruthless salespeople.

The work of salespeople only begins when they hear the word ‘no’, and must not end after they hear the word ‘yes’.

These are age-old Arabian truths that were forgotten during the roaring noughties in the GCC, but must be relearned fast for the region to rebuild its lead among competing nations.

The mission for cities in the GCC, aiming to diversify their economies away from dependence on oil and gas revenues, has been to build service-led economies.

Unfortunately, all that was really built were sales-led economies.

Real estate is the most obvious example, where the job of selling was confined to commissioning a miniature model of a development and sitting behind a desk taking off-plan orders from a queue of starry-eyed amateur property investors.

The pre-sales work – ensuring that a project will be viable (commercially, legally, technically, architecturally, aesthetically) in any financial climate, was overlooked in the rush for quick sales from buyers who temporarily took leave of their senses.

The post-sales service has been just as bad, even for projects that have been completed and inhabited.

The promises of rolling green oases, shimmering lakes, stress free living that were presented in legoland communities, have too often turned out to be compounds of tightly packed houses, facing multi-lane highways, with soaring charges for services that have been far worse that originally promised.

And where are the executives that sold the developments in the first place? Unobtainable. Their work was done when the ink was drying on sales contracts.

The real estate industry is not alone. I still hear horror stories like the mobile phone company that will not replace a faulty handset unless the original is returned with all of its packaging.

Car showrooms happily sell gleaming new cars with warranties designed to ensure stress-free motoring, then send blood pressure soaring if you ever need to get anything fixed.

The problem stems at the top. Governments compete for individuals and businesses to come to their countries with promises of tax-free living in glorious seaside sunshine with minimal government intervention. In practice, life and business is perpetually bogged down in form-filling – most of which has a fee attached.

Just when people have overcome the first flood of bureaucracy, the rules and charges change, costing more time and money. The quality of service rarely improves, but the prices typically rise.

The current downturn has made it even harder to justify the expense of great service, but it is an investment that has to be made as economies pick up.

The GCC’s long term future depends on it shifting towards a service-led economy. Businesses and governments must learn that selling is not a substitute for service.

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Ali 10 years ago

Excellent article. Sustainable and genuine growth will only come about when the rights of the consumer are respected - indeed cusomer is king and the sooner the realization sets in, the better. Enough of spin - its time to get real or perish as there are way too many options and people will no longer be fooled and taken for a ride like before.

richard 10 years ago

"The current downturn has made it even harder to justify the expense of great service, but it is an investment that has to be made as economies pick up" ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! I am amazed at this statement, this should be an ongoing investment ESPECIALLY during the downturn......Dubai is in desperate need of creating a culture of service excellence....

John 10 years ago

When attempting to buy a new Honda in 2006 I stood ignored in the showroom in Deira for half an hour before one of the indolent salesman sauntered over, probably thinking I was about to nick something. Last week it was time to buy a new one, and the rugby tackles were worthy of the Sevens themselves. Fairweather friends are not friends at all, but it is nice to see a return of sorts to service with a smile. By the way, I walked out this time and bought a Hyundai.

KMC 10 years ago

Good luck trying to get better service in Dubai during a recession when call centre staff have been cut down and it takes 30 mins to be put through because 'all our customer service agents are currently busy serving other customers' at 11pm at one of the duopoly phone companies!!

Dan 10 years ago

No wonder the service level is so low when the management steals the tip money from workers. The whole attitude of management towards the employees and customers has to change. They have to be educated in what good service is and how it returns profit. Profit DOSE NOT come from charging ever increasing prices and stealing the tip money. If you don’t believe me, just see how empty the hotels are with no tourists. Why don’t they come to Dubai anymore and go to other destinations? The Greedy management priced them self out of the market.