No, it’s not quite an oxymoron linking service with a smile in the context of Malta. We’ve been told time and again by tourism adverts, tourism policy documents, brochures and more that Malta’s friendly people make the islands a special place. Mostly that’s true – just not when it comes to dealing with customer service departments, of more or less any kind.
But, then along come pockets of exceptional personal service, and examples of people going way beyond the call of duty to lend a hand. Here’s a tale of two water services’ men who redeemed my faith in customer service. Water being an apt topic given that we’re at the close of a long hot dry summer and have not a drop to spare!
A month ago, my mains water stopped, my water meter jammed and I suspected a major leak under the kitchen floor. So, it was time to call the Water Services Corporation, or rather use their ‘efficient’ online fault reporting. But, it took some time to get the online form to work, and then another day to have a call, from someone half asleep, to say ‘someone would come’. When? Who could know?
Three days later, there was still no sign of service men and my water tanks were dangerously low. So I called. The number had never been answered in the past days, so I resigned myself to failure. It was 08.00 on a Saturday; not an auspicious time. But what a difference a day makes: my call was answered immediately by a chirpy man who said a serviceman would be on his way that minute.
And indeed, within 20 minutes he had arrived, in his own run-down car, with a boot full of the right gadgets for the job. This Water Services’ repair guy, whose name I never took, was God for me that morning. He was friendly, and full of advice on routing, joints, conduits, pressure and more, and did the work within an hour. Such a shame then that some of his office colleagues let him down.
From public sector, let’s turn to private sector.
My second special helpful ‘water’ person is someone I know of old – Mario, the bowser man. I call up Mario around four times a summer, anytime from May to September, depending on the severity and length of Malta’s summer drought months. Then, he goes off my radar all winter.
I am a fair-weather customer. Which means I am all the more pleasantly surprised each time I call him up last minute with a dried up well to see if he can come asap, and he says he can – usually that very day, or very early the next. Weekends, evenings, early mornings, 24/7 really, Mario is there to answer my prayers.
Mario isn’t any bowser; he has one leg, and that makes his manual labour all the tougher. In holidays, one or other of his many children help out. This year, it seems to have been a waif-like daughter who looks perhaps 15 at most. It’s not the sort of work that most teenage girls would be happy helping dad with. But probably Mario isn’t just any old dad.
Mario is the kind of person for whom service comes as second nature. He has never needed customer service training, or a ‘how to answer a phone’ course (which I am sure the half-asleep Water Services’ man at head office had).
Mario’s visit, which starts with his skillful reversing of an enormous lorry to the end of my alleyway, past parked cars and overhanging balconies, makes me feel good. He redeems my faith in human nature in Malta, and, of course, he helps me green my small plot of rock. He isn’t the face of Malta’s tourism (and we’ve had quite a few staff grace billboards and adverts over the years in tourism campaigns), but he’d get my vote for the people’s representative of Malta.
Smile Mario, you’re on camera! And heartfelt thanks….