Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Service? Who, Me?

The Town Crier, who is far more courteous and diplomatic that Madam, recently reposted an article from a local newspaper somewhere out there in the world that announced the following:

Notarial services at U.S. Embassy


The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy has started offering a special notarial service session.

The service, which is only available by appointment for non-U.S. passport holders, is open every Tuesday and Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

All non-U.S. passport holders seeking routine consular services from the American Services Unit will be seen by appointment only during these hours.

Customers will need to make appointments on their website and enter through the embassy’s side or visa entrance and proceed to the third floor.

The embassy hopes that this change will make better use of consular section space and reduce crowding and wait times for all its clients.

United States citizens and those who need to accompany for the services are recommended to observe the consular department’s normal appointment-only hours from 8:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Monday to Friday. Walk-in hours are from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays except Wednesdays.

 The Crier posted this with no comment except the slightly snarky title "SIT DOWN UNTIL WE CALL YOUR NAME !"  Madam, however, can think of plenty of comments and a couple of questions.
First a comment:
For example, since when is limiting time so strictly that an applicant will need a stopwatch to get there on time "special?"
Since when is limiting the time available for a service that we are responsible for providing to 1/10 of available hours "special?"
Since when can such limitation reduce crowding and wait time, especially since anyone can correctly guess that it will create an instant backlog and the accompanying worry among customers that if they aren't there early they will miss their chance and have to make a new appointment, probably for several weeks in the future?
And wait, don't tell me:  since a normal notarial takes less than three minutes total customer time to accept, process and finish, all of those "appointments" are probably for the same exact time.  Since when is it a "special service" for a customer to show up for a purported appointment and find a hundred other individuals with the same "appointment?"  And bloody since when is that going to reduce crowding?  Perhaps in some sweet ELO's dreams.
In a major ACS unit for which Madam was responsible not long ago, one LES, one cashier (who also served other units) and one ELO routinely provided more than one hundred notarials per hour, and could do that for eight hours every day if necessary, without breaking a sweat and including a regular lunch break at lunch time (a different LES and the ACS chief took over the windows for that hour).  That was their job, and they were good at it.  Total customer time from walkin to walkout was about ten minutes.  There were always seats available.  Anyone in the country who suddenly learned that he or she needed a US notarial service could zip over and get it at any time during the normal working day.
There was no need to separate American from non-American customers, and no need for those customers to use a protractor and a volume of Kierkegaard to determine when exactly they might reasonably expect to obtain the services they needed.
Exaggerating?  Madam doesn't think so.  Consider again, if you care to, what a normal American might think of the hours that the embassy is willing to provide a service he or she needs:  is it 8:45 to 11:45 Monday to Friday?  Is it 1 - 3 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday?  And what - utterly unthinkable, perhaps - if the American or non-American doesn't know what the word "notarial" means, but just knows that he needs a signature witnessed or to file an affidavit of support?    Madam has long believed that our customers should not have to learn our jargon to obtain our services...efficiently, generously, pleasantly, professionally, and at their convenience.


Donna said...

You're in this week's FS RoundUp. If you want out, please let me know: http://emailfromtheembassy.blogspot.com/2010/09/weekly-roundup-sponsored-by-me.html

Anonymous said...

Now post who has rolled out this "new" idea, and responsible officer who implemented this idea, and will put this in his EER as accomplishment, will have an excuse to send furious emails to CA to complain about your unreasonableness when it comes to public service.

Madam le Consul said...

Oh, I DO hope they will! What fun that could be!

Anonymous said...

Well the CG at the unmentioned post you cite just made SFS so maybe that is the right way to do customer service.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe that is the right way to do customer service."

Or maybe nobody cares. Kind, respectful and efficient service that pleases and impresses consular customers is not high on anybody's priority list these days, especially CA's.