Lessons to Brazil – Customer Service

Customer services
Customer services (Photo credit: gordon2208)

Yes, I know. Who the hell am I to give a country a lesson, right? This series of posts is for all foreigners who read my blog and are dying to teach Brazil something that could make things run more smoothly around here.

My first and most important lesson is Customer Service.

Paying for free samples:
When I lived in Spain I had a friend who was pregnant. When I visited her at the hospital after she gave birth, she showed me all the goodies companies had sent her. Companies that sell baby products send samples of their products to all new mothers. This is a little extravagant for developing countries because people have more babies and populations are huge, but there are alternatives.

Here is Brazil, they have just started trying out a system where consumers pay a small fee to go to a shop and take samples of products home to try. The only requirement is that they provide feedback on the product they have tried. This means they have to pay to go to the shop, take the stuff and then go back to the shop (or send an e-mail) and give feedback.
In most countries, consumers would laugh in your face if you asked them to pay to provide valuable feedback on their own products. So, my first lesson to Brazil is: give consumers free samples if you want them to try your products!!!

Employee Training, anyone?
I have been to too many restaurants where waiters and waitresses rush around nervously or simply disappear when a customer walks in the door. When you finally get their attention, they often make mistakes, bring the wrong order or forget the order altogether. Another problem is that waiters seem to think that smothering your customer is good service. They chat for hours, keep saying “fique à vontade” and snatching your glass as soon as you finish the last sip (a crime in most restaurant service courses because customers hate sitting in front of an empty table), but are never looking in your direction when you need something. This is not so common in large cities, where experienced workers are easier to find, but employees rarely train their workers to provide a good customer experience. I once stood at a counter in a shopping centre for 15 minutes with another 10 customers while 5 (yes 5) attendants struggled with a cake. Businesses are lucky that Brazilian consumers rarely complain.

Call Centre Bureaucracy:
Calls from call centres are hell anywhere in the world, but in Brazil it can be soooooo annoying. Even when its a good call, from your TV provider offering you a great deal, the amount of information you have to give to even start hearing the deal can ruin everything. The minute someone calls and asks for my CPF, my natural response is to just hang up. What happened to the “what´s your name and here´s the deal?” approach? Do you REALLY need to know my tax registration number? What the heck for? And God help you if you actually accept the deal! You have to face hours and hours of transfers, verification, more CPFs, RGs and dates of birth until the deal is confirmed.

How to complain:

There are some very efficient organizations that help you complain about bad service or the impossibility of getting what you ask for. For telecommunications, the best option is Anatel. Go to their website and register a request (solicitação). That´s how I got my cell phone unlocked. It really works. If you need help with that let me know. I know all the ropes and the information you have to provide.
For general service complains you have Procon, but you have to go their personally and yes, take piles of documents with you. But they do the job just for you. The service continues bad as always for the rest of us.
If you can´t be bothered to face Procon, you have websites like Reclame Aqui where you can register a complaint and sometimes get a reply from the company. This option worked well when my Epson printer croaked and Epson refused to help. They eventually called and solved the problem so I would put a “solved” happy face beside my complaint on the website.
Then you have legal action. I take YEARS, but it eventually works. If you have the time and nothing else works, go for it. Just send that warning letter beforehand to see if they react.
The most important thing is not to remain silent. You have to complain if you want Brazil to be a better place 😉


7 thoughts on “Lessons to Brazil – Customer Service

  1. The problem is very complex, in my opinion. I believe that most restaurants do provide training, however, the labor pool they draw from is mostly comprised of poor people with inadequate education and very little experience even receiving customer service. Also, turnover is extremely high in low paying jobs due to the labor laws and benefits that punish employers and reward poor employee performance. An employee who leaves his job is still entitled to several months of pay–regardless of the reason he left. This causes employees to have little incentive to improve or even maintain an adequate level of performance.

    The Brazilian marketplace is extremely difficult for small business owners due to the extremely high costs involved at every level–suppliers, freight, labor, taxes, etc…The key for employers is to find implement systems that reward employees for behavior that builds customer loyalty. The hurdle for employers is that they are unaccustomed to thinking that way and so they are hesitant to add what seems like another cost, even if it ultimately means higher sales in the long run.


    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree 100%. Companies are often too choked to deal with the extra cost of hiring “better educated” employees that take advantage of the training they are getting, and another problem I see is that companies do not make their employees feel they are part of anything. That is very emphasized in other countries. The same poor education level affect everything companies do or offer.


  2. You should never give your CPF, RG number, address, or any other personal information to people who call you on the phone. There are large scale crime rings in Brazil that call people up pretending to be customer service for a bank, phone company, etc. in order to extract information and commit identity theft.

    Some of these people sound very convincing and are often smoother than the company’s actual customer service people. I got a call once from someone claiming to be my bank. They knew my bank account number, branch number, all sorts of things. They wanted a few more details. When I told them I didn’t want to reveal this information they sounded very reasonable, said that they needed my personal information before they could speak to me for security reasons. When I said that I’d talk to a branch manager they said that I could also reach the bank at their 0800 number, on their website, etc. When I called my bank they claimed that they had nothing to do with it and that it was probably a scam.

    Once again, *never* *ever* divulge personal information such as a CPF to some random person who calls you up on the phone in Brazil. It’s just asking for trouble.


    1. Thanks for your comment. There are lots of scams that are mostly “clonagem” or identity theft. You should never accept collect calls unless you know the caller (line cloning) or accept to dial certain keys on your phone keypads, requested over the phone by very professional sounding callers. CPF is especially vulnerable because people can look everything up on a government website and get your name, then they can get loans using your information.


  3. I’m a brazilian and this post sounds a little, just a little bit rude for me although I ‘have’ to agree with you. Customer service around here it is not a nightmare just for you foreigners. The worst thing you can do is thinking you’ll be well treated for an employee in a public place here. Mostly of them are sooo stressed that they can not be polite with you. But that’s not our fault. As I have (sorrowfully) read in an old post in this same website, we’re not intellectual people but emotinal.


    1. Thanks so much for your comment. Believe it or not, I loved it. I may seem rude because that´s my nature. I have always been direct to the point of offending people and I just can´t control that aspect of my personality. It´s inbred! If its any consolations, customer service in Argentina (the only other Latin American country I know) is MUCH worse. Here, we have the human aspect. Customer service is bad but people are kind and genuinely try to solve your problem if they are in the mood. In Argentina, people switch onto a different mode when they have to complain or want to buy something to endure the rudeness and lack of enthusiasm of the attendants. The only difference is that Brazilians seem to complicate things more. Why this insistence on giving out document numbers all the time? As for the emotional versus the intellectual, being emotional is no defect. As my father used to say, what´s the point of being intellectual if it only leads to wars, revolutions and crisis? Here, we just smile and live in peace. Who needs to dwell on religious differences, idealogical differences? Those types of dwellings only cause conflict between people.
      My only complaint, deep down, is that Brazilians should love their county like we love it, Brazilians by choice. That´s really the only thing I complain about. Love your country, look after it and love your people. This country will be considered Paradise in the future because it has everything you need.


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