Quality

Monday was a holiday, 2nd Easter Day- celebrated by the Christian half of the population but enjoyed by all; except a few of us preparing the final details for our leadership workshop that starts tomorrow.

We met in the nicely air-conditioned library of the West African health organization, an institution of the Economic Council of West Africa. It is tri-lingual; with 7 French speaking member countries, 5 English speaking and 2 Portuguese. It is not as bad as the EU with its 2 digit languages, but complicated enough. We decided to write the flipcharts in English and then speak in French. The Anglophones get the pretty and final version of the facilitator notes because that’s our first language; the French version is still a draft. Luckily the Lusophones, in a minority, have adjusted and speak/understand both languages.

My colleague A. and I divided the facilitation tasks and hope to include one more member today – a longtime friend and co-facilitator from Guinea with whom I last worked more than 10 years ago. His boss is also someone I worked with, even longer ago, and was one of my Guinean students in a senior leadership program.

The restaurant of my new hotel is, like the old one, not very frequented. At 8 PM I was told no more orders were taken – as if any orders had been taken at all: there was no trace of any dining activity. I was referred to the nuns, around the corner. A faint memory of having eaten there in 1993. I was served a delicious meal of sole and spinach in the courtyard of the convent. I had a small Flag beer and pondered the difference between my recent experience in Asia and West Africa.

There is of course the price and star difference between the hotels I stayed in (5 star versus half a star, if that) but even so, the difference appeared to be in the details and the quality of the interactions with staff, I concluded. It was probably no coincidence that the woman who greeted me at the restaurant’s gate, led me to my table, took my order, served my meal and then accompanied me back to the gate was from Vietnam.

Attention and quality of service is in the mind and therefore not necessarily expensive, but priceless indeed. Here there is a long way to go: no young trainees standing by the reception desk to learn how to deal politely with a customer. There is an attitude here of ‘globalement, c’est bon,’ (overall everything is OK), so what’s your problem, and ‘it’s not my fault,’ a quick defensive reaction that stops all further inquiries, as there are no answers.

My new room is smaller than my old one, and less well equipped (no fridge and no jacuzzi which my last hotel had even though it didn’t work as there was no water pressure). But the bed is more comfortable, the door lock, shower, toilet and airco work, and the internet is about the same, intermittent. Only the pillows was a step down, consisting of three pillowcases that were filled with small pieces of jagged foam. It made me think longingly of my pillow menu in Manila.

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