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Each year market research company Ask Afrika announces the winners of its Orange Index Awards for customer service.   The selection is decided through a rigorous process where they look at service delivery, awarding a scaled rating of service excellence in order to come up with the best in South Africa. The service, of course, must be consistent and for the record last year’s winner was Woolworths followed by Burger King.  Also, just for the record, OR Tambo international Airport did not make the list.  

When travelling through that airport recently I was struck by the stark contrast in service which I received from different departments. Immigration is hit and miss –   sometimes it’s reasonable and sometimes it’s a real shocker. Not so, however, for the men’s toilets at the international departure’s area. Consistently I get great, albeit over-the-top,  service which includes being greeted at the door by the toilet attendant’s friendly tongue-in-cheek “welcome to my office”.

On some occasions he  acts like an air traffic controller, telling me which stall is free to use, and on occasion going as far as opening the cubicle door for me. After my business is complete, I am graciously offered a paper towel or shown where the hand-dryer is. The experience is completed by cupped hands and wishing me a pleasant onward journey as I exit.

If you aren’t a regular traveller through ORT, you may pause to wonder how the HR  department gets the customer service right in one area yet fails in another. You may wonder if it’s possible to attribute the different standards of service to better training  in one area (bathrooms) compared to another (immigration). It certainly can’t be anything to do with the nature of the work as you would surely assume that a customer- interfacing and administration role such as an immigration official must certainly beat a cleaner’s role, hands down, when it comes to job satisfaction?

The difference in fact can be found in what drives the different behaviours which quite simply is the reward for the service. Now I don’t know what reward system is in place for the immigration official who gives good service, but it is obviously not an attractive one judging by the service being provided. The informal reward system that has been crafted by bathroom cleaners to supplement their income, on the other hand, is working well.

They have figured out a lucrative additional income stream from the international travellers who are happy to pay a gratuity to the loo keeper for the personal touch (metaphorically speaking!) whilst using the facility. Unfortunately for the bathroom cleaners I am not one of them.  Personally, I find the ‘service’ irritating as I don’t want to make small talk with the janitor or have to divulge if my toilet business is of a primary or secondary nature.  I don’t feel I need help with the paper towels or be escorted to the hand dryer but luckily for the attendants, I am in a minority.

If we look back at history, this idea of a bathroom service experience comes from a position called  ‘washroom attendant’. It started at fee-charging restrooms (toilets that cost money to use) because anyone paying for usage would reasonably  expect it to be clean and well-managed. Thus, there was always someone around to clean the toilets and sinks as well as make sure there was a clean roller towel, or a supply of paper towels. This concept can still be found in the US and certain European countries, mostly in nightclubs, restaurants etc. and in these places, tipping is the custom. The practice is rare elsewhere these days but not at ORT where, like a form of busking, it’s in full swing!

The bathroom cleaners at ORT have tapped into a potential income stream in addition to their salary,  one that is funded by American and European travellers who, when using the bathrooms in transit, are happy offload their insignificant change in Rands to attendants for, well in most cases just being there. They are getting tips, of that there is no doubt, although in my experience they never seem to be doing much cleaning to earn it, though there is significant standing at the door, greeting the clientele as they enter, initiating conversation and offering guided tours.  I see the cupping their hands as they make their way out less as a gesture of supplication and more as a fat hint but it’s an enthusiastic service, that’s for sure.

But who am I to be judging this entrepreneurial spirit and anyway it’s not the point of the article which is to show that human motivation is driven by wants and needs, in this case money.   It also demonstrates how great and even outstanding customer service can be achieved if there is something in it for the person providing that service. The bathroom attendants at the airport feel incentivised to provide this very over the top service as a lucrative salary top-up. I don’t know how much they are making but it must be good because there is a consistent level of high service and people don’t do what they aren’t rewarded for, so obviously it’s working.

If we can tap into that monetary motivation and find the way to gear up and incentivise service levels, you really can provide it. Here are people doing it  off their own bat– using initiative, running their own little business, providing a service unsupervised and with enthusiasm because the reward that they are getting is worthwhile AND immediate, tax free and with no operating overheads!

 So when the Orange Index awards come about next year maybe they can consider this cottage industry taking place in the toilets of OR Tambo’s International Departure Hall where you can witness top class service, delivered with a smile while the rest of the airport staff mope around doing only the very least that might be expected to contribute to a positive customer experience. One word of caution – please don’t take this as a suggestion to start dropping cheery immigration officials a generous gratuity.   In their line of work that would be called a bribe!

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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