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 😉