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The stress of boarding a Kenyan matatu

Customer service holds significant importance for most companies and industries, with many of them employing professional teams to safeguard their reputation.

A substantial amount of money is invested in brand building, and precautions are taken to prevent any damage to their positive image.

However, there appears to be an exception to this trend in the matatu (public service vehicle) industry.

Anticipating satisfactory customer service from a matatu conductor or tout appears as challenging as it may come, as most vehicles have unruly employees who are ready to hurl insults at the slightest provocation.

Simple proceedures such as requesting for balance after making fare payment at times becomes a headache to the passengers as touts could react with fits of rage and belittle their customers, presenting the simple inquiry as a grave sin.

Caroline Akoth, a Nairobi resident, expresses her disillusionment with the customer service prevailing in the matatu industry to Nairobi News.

She points out, “One of the most painful aspects is the tout’s deceptive allure to board the vehicle, only for it to speed away before you can even secure a seat, leaving you grappling for the nearest support to avoid a fall.”

“What’s even worse is their apparent indifference towards pregnant women or individuals with disabilities; they exhibit an eagerness to depart without consideration. I’ve sustained injuries several times while attempting to secure a seat in a moving vehicle,” adds Akoth.

Moses Mweresa, another Nairobi resident, echoes similar sentiments.

“At times, the volume of the music blaring within the matatus reaches unbearable levels, and the vehicles maintain excessive speeds. Many matatus are overcrowded, particularly during nighttime journeys, which greatly diminishes the travel experience. Regrettably, voicing complaints often results in a barrage of insults from the numerous touts.”

“Moreover, discerning who the actual tout is proving challenging, as nearly four young men jostle around the vehicle’s doors, making it exceedingly uncomfortable to get out of the vehicle,” Mweresa notes.

In December 2021, a study conducted by the United Nations revealed that 80 percent of Kenyan women in the capital city have encountered harassment while using public transportation. The report, titled “Safety and Security Emerge as a Significant Issue for Most Women in Nairobi,” Unfortunately, a disheartening aspect is the lack of serious attention given to some of the reported incidents of these crimes.

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