x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sharjah government aims to improve telephone manner

The Government of Sharjah announces it will train staff who answer their phones to deal with inquiries more efficiently and politely.

SHARJAH // It is an all too familiar experience: what should be a simple call to a local authority to enquire about public transport or report a blocked drain turns into a nightmare of being passed from pillar to post, put on hold and spoken to like a second-class citizen by a less-than-sympathetic operator. Now, following repeated public complaints about sloppy customer service, the Government of Sharjah has announced it will train staff who answer their phones to deal with inquiries more efficiently and politely.

Sharjah Human Resource Department said it had organised a training course to improve the skills of staff in government departments, when it comes to fielding calls from the public. Residents and workers in the emirate have complained in the past that their telephone inquiries have been met with long periods on hold, an unhelpful attitude sometimes verging on rudeness and awkward language barriers.

The course starts this week with 27 trainees drawn from key government departments like Sharjah Police, Civil Defence and Civil Aviation, and will past for three months. Hanan al Jarwan, the director of SHRD, said every telephone operator should play an important role in demonstrating the efficiency of a department or organisation and the ability to deal with clients correctly should be an integral part of this.

She said the training program, which is being undertaken in co-operation with the telecommunications provider Etisalat, would teach the government staff the basic principles of customer service, English language skills and methods for coping with difficult calls. Several residents yesterday welcomed news of the training scheme, reporting unpleasant experiences. Aisha Hammad, 30, a Palestinian housewife in the Al Majaz area, said she had found dealing with phone operators in government schools problematic.

She said: "One day I called the operator and told them that my daughter would not be going to school the next day and that there is no need for the school bus to come. The phone operator did not pass on the information and the next day the bus driver turned up. When I tried to blame her for not passing on this information she simply shouted at me." Musa al Qaadh, an Egyptian resident, said he once received a hostile reception from the operator who demanded that he speak "correct Arabic".

"She told me that this is not Egypt, you have to speak correct Arabic or I will hang up on you," said Mr al Qaadh. Another resident, Mohammed Yousef said he was once kept waiting on a telephone line for more than ten minutes before giving up. "It was not a matter of the operator being busy, she just received another call on her mobile and asked me to excuse her for a minute," he said. The National telephoned Sharjah government departments to gauge the service they provided and found in many cases they did not have an English-speaking phone operator. In some departments there was no answer at all.

A call to the Postal Authority to ask about the location of postboxes was answered by a female with an apparently impatient manner. Asked whether letters could be posted in public areas such as shopping malls, she responded: "By municipality". When clarification was sought on the exact location she declined to provide an address or directions and repeated "by municipality" at an increased volume.

A request for further information was declined and when asked whether she could send an e-mail, she shouted "No" and put down the phone. *The National