Last week Madam briefly mentioned dual-language business cards. Today she elaborates, starting with a mercifully brief history lesson.
Before 9/11 made the idea of kindness to our customers and efficiency in their treatment blasphemously unpatriotic, there was a movement in the US consular world called "best practices." These were ideas and processes that could be incorporated into consular work to increase, yes, kindness and efficiency. Conferences were held to present such ideas and promote their use. The CA web site displayed them prominently.
If you can find the best practices web page nowadays, many of these ideas continue to be good ones. One of the best is 'the card,' which is still used at many posts and deserves to be used at all of them.
While the ritual business card exchange at the beginning or ending of a meeting seems mandatory, the cards themselves are only rarely used again. But what if they were more useful?
Okay, maybe not THIS useful. But some consular sections print up business-card-sized cards with information on them such as the post's web site, the NIV section or call center number, IV information numbers, ACS hours, how to make appointments, and the after hours emergency number if it is different from the mission's daytime number. For good measure, cards can be printed on both sides: English on one, the local language on the other.
Savvy consular sections not only distribute these cards at the service windows, but also give them by the handful to non-consular officers to distribute whenever a contact asks about visas or ACS. They relieve our political, econ and management colleagues of the burden of explaining - or avoiding explaining - visa processing. And they do it using the 'give them something' rule, the one that says that courtesy often consists of not giving a person what he wants, but giving him anything he can use. It saves our colleagues from having to wriggle out of long conversations about a contact's cousin's wife's maid's hairdresser who was refused a visa, and how unfair that was, and getting back to whatever they actually want to talk about. And it guarantees that the information is accurate using the simplest and surest possible means, the written word.