An example of bad service at the ODEL Roots.
The Curionomist (great new blog) has a piece on the economics of bad service in Sri Lanka. He breaks it down roughly to competition, which I think is kinda true.
In Sri Lanka you can set up any number of businesses and be the first in that field, still. Many other companies also have age-old monopolies, or there are a few players which co-exist in a chummy statis. Disruptive innovations and competition are rare and quite possibly not rewarded.
Places can prosper by providing a basic service not that well and simply scaling up. It’s somewhat expected that in order to get good service you need to know the owner. But I think that is slowly changing.
The Curionomist focuses on competition, as per below:
If Serendib offered terrible service, I could just pop over to one of dozens of very similar places on either side of it or across the Lewis strip, with fairly similar prices. A case of near perfect competition. So, what keeps me there throughout the evening, and keeps me coming back? Good service quality. (The Irk Of Bad Service Quality In Sri Lanka)
I broadly agree, but I don’t necessarily agree that the Sri Lankan work ethic is bad. I just think it’s a family/feudal oriented culture that has yet to scale commercially. You can get stellar service at local or village kades where they treat you like family. You can also get amazing service anywhere if you know the lokka (owner or boss) and people have servants that will do nearly anything. I think Sri Lankans are naturally hospitable to people they know and, beyond that, a bit feudal.
Of course, that is changing. It has to. For a long time the pie wasn’t getting much bigger, so there wasn’t much incentive for competition. Now the pie is getting bigger (war is over, economy is growing) so competition matters again, and I think the Sri Lankan service ethic will modernize as incentives get in line.