The need to move from one place to the other and to transport goods to and fro, has created the need for transport services for people, by roads linking towns and various destination and by water or air.
However, the desire of every traveler aboard any means of transport is to get to their destination safely, without compromising their safety, comfort and the basic things that could cost their lives.
The once famous Ghana’s State Transport Cooperation (STC), which trumpets this ideal in its motto: “We Take You There Safely”, has sadly lost favour with majority of travelers, including yours sincerely.
It was my hope and the hope of two colleagues of mine to have a wonderful and a comfortable ride back to Accra, after a late night ride from Yamoussoukro to Abidjan. We least expected the experience we had on the journey.
In order not to miss the bus we arrived at the bus terminal two hours before time, secured our tickets and paid for our luggage, which were duly weighed before it was even 8:00 am. The goods on the ground were packed inside the load compartment of the bus, which appeared not too healthy for the journey.
After boarding the bus at 9:10, the personnel loading the bus, reopened the luggage compartments to rearrange and pushed more luggage, compressing and mishandling peoples’ luggage.
As if that was not enough, the personnel brought on board more goods which they packed on the floor of the aisle of the bus between the seats and under the seats. They hurriedly packed the rice bags, with several cartons of oil, among a collection of other personal effects that obstructed movement of passengers on board the bus. In fact, the Personnel loading the goods on the bus even blocked the second door at the rare of the bus which serves as an alternative entrance making the bus look like a messy trap. In the process they even damaged some luggage of passengers.
Officials of the Intercity STC turned a deaf ear to several complaints made by the passengers, who aired their displeasure about the excess load packed on the space between the seats. What even angered the passengers most was the seemingly lack of interest by the drivers and the bus conductor to even offer an explanation or an apology on why the goods were packed in the bus.
Upon further complaints by passengers, one of the Personnel loading the goods, who begged the passengers to be calm even worsened his case, when he offered a flimsy excuse that the goods would be offloaded at Takoradi. By this time, the bus had already started the journey 30 munities late than the Departure time.
After several trials to spark the Yutong bus, it finally started with the aid of about five mechanics. It is true God made man and man made machines hence the bus could break down at any moment but this bus with registration number GN 1023-11 looked sick and does not qualify to ply a distance as long as Abidjan, Accra- Abidjan. The seats looked unkempt and discoloured with dark-grey dirt stains. Simply put, the bus was just unhealthy and unfit to embark on the long journey, but the drivers and manager(s) at Abidjan STC terminal seem not bothered to even make arrangement for a much healthier one.
The engine of the bus ceased at Sekondi near the Sekondi Central Prisons, causing an evening traffic around the Ketan Roundabout in the Western Region. It was an interesting scene, where the men on board the bus helped pushed the tired bus to a safer side of the road. If it were some other transport company, a different bus would have been called to convey the stranded passengers to their destination but it was a different story. There was not a single bus on standby at the Takoradi bus terminal so we had to wait on mechanics from the Takoradi station as they struggled to get the state coach move again. The bus had to crawl from Sekondi to Accra, using more travelling time and causing unnecessary uneasiness among the passengers. We were supposed to get to Accra latest by 8pm that fateful day but we got to Accra after midnight.
Respect for Passengers
Beyond a good name, respect for ones clients is what helps organisations maintain their reputation. There was one STC driver I once encountered on one of my trips from Kumasi to Accra, who introduced himself and greeted the passengers on board the bus. After praying with the passengers, he informed us of where and where the bus would stop, and added that we should not hesitate to alert him if any of us had a challenge. And that was the kind of service one passenger on aboard the bus from Abidjan to Accra on that fateful Tuesday 16th August 2016 misses.
She reminisced how the good old STC was in the 80s when she started traveling with Ghana’s finest transport service but stated emphatically that the STC service today is terrible.
It does not make business sense to travel with a transport organisation which inconveniences passengers and does not respect them. Once they have paid for the service of a transport service, the onus lies on the transport service provider to see to it that the passengers’ safety and comfort is secured at all time and not compromised.
The instance where some passengers were left at the Côte d’Ivoire side of the border without waiting for every passenger to get on board was gross disrespect and a breach of the safety of the passengers. The case where the personnel loading the bus demand monies from passengers after they have paid for their luggage is not right and must cease.
Customer service is the end-all to any company’ s success or failure. The customer is what provides the income that a company needs to thrive and determines whether or not a company can continue to stay in business. Therefore , it is of the utmost importance that a high level of customer service always be something to strive for. Without continued excellence in customer service , a company’ s success is over before it starts. It is expected that a company as huge as the STC would have a sense of customer feeling and if not to solve the problem on the spot, should be able to calm agitated customers down with a professional touch.
The STC office at the Ghana side of the boarder at Elubo where complaints are to be lodged is opened and deserves some commendations. Be that as it may, as to whether the office is serving it’s purpose or not will be an issue to be contended by STC as a company and it’s customers. A gentleman greeted us warmly as we entered the office.
We began by saying we had a complaint that we wanted him to know about. Before we could finish our narration, a simple complaint had become a debate. According to him, the bus was overloaded with goods. Yes. But the goods belonged to the passengers onboard. Assuming all the goods belonged to the passengers onboard as he suggested, does it make sense to overload a bus just because the goods belong to passengers? To an extent that the second door of the bus was completely blocked and in case of an emergency, passengers would have struggled to use a single exit instead of two. The possible outcome is needs not to be mentioned.
What was expected of this gentleman was for him to come out of the office and walk with us to the venue where the care was parked to ascertain for himself the intensity of the concerns being raised and render apologies even if nothing was going to be done about it. He chose to sit in his office to argue with us. Not wanting any long debate we told him we came to lodge a complain and not to debate and left his office.
Passengers deserve better
It is a sad reality that the once renowned State Transport Cooperation (STC), now the Intercity State Transport Company has lost the Accra-Kumasi-Accra route to the VIP Tours, a private company. It is worrying that the sanitation condition at the bus terminal is a nightmare and the aging buses continue to ply our routes, without regard to passengers safety.
As a carrier having the Ghana flag embossed on the company logo, your passenger and clients deserves better treatment from you. Your company indeed should uplift the name of Ghana in Côte d’Ivoire, instead of undeserving them in this embarrassing manner.
In fact, it is not enough to claim you will take your passengers to their destination safely. Your attitude towards your clients must change for the better.
Treat passengers well and exceed their expectation, so that they will always choose your service above others.
By Kwesi Yirenkyi Boateng