Why should customers be allowed to choose who services them based on nationality?

I am rather disappointed at both at a local bank for its handling of the”allegedly foreigner pretending to be Singaporean debacle” and for the Singaporean who caused such a mountain out of a molehill.

For those who are unaware, there is this story about a customer asking a bank teller if she was a Filipino and when she said yes, he asked to speak with a Singaporean. A male staff who then attended to him, identified himself as a Singaporean. But under questioning in regards to which camp he served during National Service, the staff confessed to the customer that he is a Permanent Resident. The customer angrily posted his encounter on a Facebook group while waiting for an answer from the bank, writing about him wanting to see how the lying staff will be dealt with. While the post was later removed, but it was already reported by a local media.

I get it. The Singaporean feels frustrated by his perception of his country no longer being “Singaporean” but honestly, does it make a difference whether the person on the other line is Singaporean or not? As long as they can answer your queries and perform their job, why does the employee in question have to be Singaporean in the first place? Since when is citizenship a prerequisite to answering the phone? One has to ask the question which may make for uncomfortable reading – is this individual simply frustrated by the immigration policy in Singapore or is he simply a racist bigot?

If it is the former, then he should take it up via democratic channels. Write to his Member of Parliament. Ask questions and vote wisely at the next election. Not take it out on a poor employee who is just trying to do his job and make a living like everyone else. If it is the latter, well, he should be named and shamed! Racism should not be tolerated in any way, shape or form.

Perhaps the employee in question should not have lied but in the heat of the moment, while trying to placate an irate customer, anyone else might have done the same. He just wanted the customer to calm down. In this instance, why did the bank not defend its employees? This employee is being bullied by a customer. There is a difference between good customer service and outright bullying. Customer services personnel should offer good service. However, they should not have to tolerate bullying on the part of the customer. In this case, the employee was being barraged for something totally irrelevant to his job!

Besides, how can the bank allow a customer to pick and choose a customer service personnel on the basis of his or her nationality? It is completely irrelevant! This is not a request that should even have been entertained by the bank.

Further, why does the employee in question have to be “counselled”? Surely, he ought to have been comforted and compensated for having to deal with such an unreasonable customer! Instead, it would seem that he may have lost his job? That is outrageous! Banks or any companies that offer customer service have to take some leadership and address the situation. They need to stand by its employees and protect them from being the subject of racist angry rants.

There is a difference between being a doormat and being professional. Employees need to be able to tell the difference and handle errant customers in a firm but polite manner.