Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The universal language of customer service

Mercy laughs at me every time I say "ay-ta-sein" (how are you?) or "ay-ya" (I am fine). She sells me fruit every day on my way home from work, and she also tries to teach me a new word or phrase in "Twi," the local language. When I stumble over my words she laughs and begins to speak in English.

Another one of my local vendors has put me on a crash-course in Twi; they don't realize that I will be gone in two weeks and they will be amongst the people that I will miss the most.

Coming from a SuperStore world, I have grown to really love my early morning/late afternoon routine here. I buy some staples at the grocery store equivalent here (coffee, apple juice, et cetera), but I get most of my things at roadside stands or shacks. I get my fruit from Mercy, tomatoes and beans from a stand up the road from her.

There is one little shop near my place where I buy things like bottled water, toilet paper, dish soap, bread, et cetera. Across the road from them I buy imported shortbread cookies (my late-night indulgence). I can't get anything else from them because the woman at the first shop is very territorial, and she's let it be known I should only buy from her.

One day I handed her 6,500 cedis for a bottle of water; she eyed me warily and said, "They charge that price across the street. I only charge 6,000." It reminded of the time I was at Java Moose and handed one of the owners enough change for a medium-size coffee at Tim Hortons. Let's just say it didn't pass unnoticed.

Big companies buy our loyalty through expensive advertising and branding campaigns. Small ones - in Ghana and in Canada - earn it through personal, daily contact.

The language of loyalty is sincerity and warmth, and it can be understood by foreigners here even if we don't speak Twi.

- Mark

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,
What a great blog. It sounds like you have met some nice people. It makes me think I should be walking to Cochran's everyday. There is nothing like buying from the local markets. It's the only way we get to kmow the people and in the long run we are all helping eachother. I am sure they will miss you as much as you will miss them. We are all looking looking forward to your homecoming two weeks from tonight The 29th.
Love, Mummy and Dady