You’re Only A Customer

Humans are the only living things that provide a service.  Baboons scratch each other’s backs and groom themselves, but I doubt that there is a primate somewhere offering a swinging service or discount bananas, high up in the tree-tops.

How important is good customer service? The only thing better than good customer service is a thick skin to withstand bad service.

I dare say every man’s quest and ambition for wealth and success is borne out of a yearning for better customer service – or the best there is out there actually. We want fortune and fame so that we can be treated like royalty at 7 star hotels, pampered at fancy spas and Moroccan getaway villas. Bespoke and top of the line services cost top dollar (or many top nairas).

Entertainment stars, minted folk, and even trust fund totties are afforded access to exclusive products, freebies, and can have Harrods or Nobu or Cipriani’s or ____ (insert Naija joint here) shut to everyday customers to accommodate their custom. And if a store has been shut just for your convenience, I somehow doubt that the till manager will blow gum and look disinterested while you squeeze into and force on garments that are obviously never going to be your size.

In our dear country Naija, the customer service culture is suffering.

Back in the day for example, the good folk at the shoe store chain Bata (now Famad apparently) had the most professional attendants who helped you pick and try mountains of shoes and sandals if need be, until you walked out of the branch, smiling with your purchase.

That was then.

I was at a “Sea Bank” recently to do some Western Union transfer and I went to the customer service area to make an enquiry, and believe you me, the bank teller didn’t look up once from some documents she was reading. She kept on mumbling the answers to my enquiry, until I stopped bothering her with questions.

It beggars belief but there is an airline that requires customers to identify their luggage on the tarmac prior to boarding the aircraft for take-off, so that the identified items could be loaded unto the plane. I thought that was what tags were for, but I had to catch on quickly.  I was lucky because I nearly left my Onitsha tri-colored chocolate bread which were in my briefcase, behind.  You do realize that some people do not welcome you back from your travels if you dare come without bearing bread. Funny but true!

Eateries have arguably the worst customer service though banks are now giving them a run for their money.

It is not uncommon to buy pastry or fast food or perishables, only to find out that it has gone off. And you know in most places in naija, snacks are non-refundable, whether or not you found a gnat or a reptile inside.

I purchased a birthday cake for my uncle last year from a popular fast food franchise whose company logo is a yellow icon, similar to the BB smiley icon for “happy”. Imagine how we felt, when my uncle cut his birthday cake and discovered that it was spoilt inside. I can only imagine what he wished for when he blew his candles.

Before this happened, I didn’t even know cakes could get spoilt or go bad.  Well, apart from bean cakes obviously.

Everywhere we turn, we are harassed with poor customer service. It is hard enough working hard 40 plus hours a week to earn money, without having to work harder to get good value for your buck. The funny thing is that Nigerians would make a quick billionaire out of the provider of any niche service that catches on. If we love a product or service, we over-subscribe to it, until the owner starts beating us away with a stick. Yes, our dear Naija is a franchisor’s dream. Please read the article on The Brand-Wagon Effect.

And it is not just the banks or eateries. There is a popular recruitment company in VI which is the Nigerian branch of a major UK recruitment firm.  The receptionist there more and less determines who may get hired or who gets to see the main recruitment consultants. It is like she is the first hurdle in the recruitment process.  Seems like if she hates your face or is not in the mood, your resume may end up as a wrapper at a guguru and epa stand.

It is also quite remarkable that some customer service officers usually seem clueless or ill-informed about the product they are selling.  A friend of mine went to (X)FC and ordered  one of their types of chicken  but the girl at the till looked surprised and confused by the order, even though it was listed on the electronic menu board just behind her. Hope she was not a vegan in disguise?

And it is funny how some restaurateurs claim “Food is Ready” or the plusher joints have the a big beautiful advert board showing an array of pies, muffins and pastries , but when you get into the joint, all they left is fufu and hot Golden Guinea beer?  Or the chicken they offer you in the store looks like the carcass of a local fowl, while the one advertised on the board was a battery reared hen?

 Back in University, there was this popular eatery whose owner who used to welcome students in with a frown and a verbal rundown of what was not on the menu: “Eba no dey. Fufu don finish. Rice dey fire. Fridge don spoil, I no go market so no fish, I de pick stone for inside beans”. Right, I don’t suppose the medium rare steak and a bottle of your finest Bordeaux are available?

Believe you me; you get much better customer service at a roadside market, than you do at a bank or from a GSM or Internet Service Provider.  At least the wee girl that hawks gra-nut (Nigerian for groundnut) on my street, gives me jara every time. Talk about BOGOF (buy one get one free!).

And the need for proper service even spreads to schools.

Back in secondary school, we had a Math teacher who was as unruly and Fuji as you can get. The sort of chap that wore those wife-beater vests with big holes in them, under a see through lace traditional outfit. He forever carried a hankie, and baptized your face with spit whenever he was demonstrating a point or angry.

There was a day he taught a new topic in class – I think it was algebra or something. Everyone looked confused, so he said “If there is anyone who doesn’t understand, please tell me now o. Exams are coming up in 2 weeks time. If you write nonsense in the exams, I will fail you and I won’t hear please o. That’s why I’m your teacher. I am here to make you understand, and go over it again and again. You can even approach me in the staff room and ask me to explain and I would revise it with you o.”

Then one chap sitting at the front row of the classroom put his hand up.

The Math teacher was like “Yes young man, what is it?”

The chap said “Sir, I don’t understand”

The Math teacher spat venom “Get out of here!!! You are a bastard!!! Idiot!!”

Everyone was like #@*%$!!???

 Is it not even more ridiculous how store attendants always try to make you look like you shouldn’t want what you are inquiring about? You ask for a product, and they sort of snicker under their breath like, do you still use that unpopular product or they look at you like do not know what you are saying and should be asking for something else. Or they try to impose their will on your tastes. I will illustrate:

My friend Lulu and I went to a place popular for their rice and stew to eat. The owner of the spot usually liked to take the orders from customers and serve the meals herself. Great stuff. Now Lulu was on some kind of cholesterol diet to reduce her oil intake so asked the owner of the place to bring only white rice for her and no stew at all. She intended to use some ketchup from the table to eat the white rice she had ordered. I was on no such diet, so I ordered rice, stew and all the peperempes. The woman brought my order first and it was piping hot!  Lulu reminded the woman again, that she just wanted white rice, with no stew. The woman nodded in understanding.

Fifteen minutes later, the restaurateur brought Lulu’s order – it had stew on it, in fact of plenty stew! Lulu was shocked and very upset. She asked the woman “Are you kidding me?! Why the hell did you put stew on the food? I didn’t want any. I wanted plain rice which I was going to eat with some of your table ketchup!”

The woman was defiant as she replied in pigeon, not even pidgin: “The food come dry somehow without stew na. How you go de shop (chop) rice like that? Abeg  jor”

The woman had probably decided that she was going to add the stew from the get go as she was  upset that someone didn’t want to sample her specialty. Somehow I don’t see her throwing only rice at the couple at  weddings.

Have you noticed that the more popular a business becomes in Nigeria, the worse the customer service seems to get? And it is the reverse as well – low patronage causes better customer services so as to prevent business closure. I noticed that the service at “Fish-tail Bank” has gotten better since the summer of 09. Sanusi has gotten something right at least.

I was a bank recently somewhere in Ikota (the bank’s name has the same spelling as the Igbo traditional delicacy made from strips of cassava – African salad). There were 2 points of entry into the bank, only one was working to allow customers in. A long queue similar to the Tally number days had formed in front of the working entry door (or secret weight scale, as you would find out later). Then one clueless customer came and stood in front of the one that wasn’t functioning.  He noticed that nobody was trying to use the door even though it was free, so he asked some people in the queue: “Why una no dey use this door. E de work?

The security orderly manning the working door, hissed sarcastically: “Try am, e de work”

He pressed the button for the automatic door to open, but obviously it didn’t. I was like, this is unbelievable. I don’t believe the security orderly said that? He can’t say that, can he? Did a bank employee just say that to a customer? He should get more than a slap on the wrist.

The funniest things are those capsules or security doors that banks use. The worst ones are the ones used by a bank which has a similar trademark with the Mask of Zorro logo. The insulting security capsule discriminates against customers with weight on them.

It bellows in a very polite but loud and humiliating voice which all the customers in the bank can hear as well “ This platform can only hold one customer, two customers are not allowed”

 Those bank security capsules can only be in service in a country like Naija.  How many customers coming in to do their banking expect to be chucked on a scale machine or abused by something that Dr Who would be climbing out of?



Rocking D Boy, Fila, velour in 190 black Benz/
Now they shut down the stores when I’m shopping/

Nas (Hero, 2008)

9 responses

  1. …And the list goes on and on…my worst experiences are always with women…if your are pms-ing or you just broke up with your boyfriend, I feel for you but don’t be taking it out on me…sheeesh…

  2. Finally someone talking bout poor customer service.

    I was in a bank, two weeks ago and the lady at the front desk was busy acting like it was her birthright to be rude to anyone who asked her a question, to think she was the first person you see once you enter the bank. I cannot overlook bad character, thats my bad, so i called her on her crap, an elderly man beside me had the nerve to tell me that it did not concern me since she was not talking to me, i told him to condone bad behaviour from his generation but my generation will put their foot down, that is one of the reason Nigeria is the way it is abi? i threatened to tape her with a hiden camera and put her up on Youtube, and thank God she had the Bank logo scarve on her neck, lets see how she would like that……lol.

  3. @ Zed – I know right? Imagine what would happen if commercial airplane pilots took their personal frustrations to work.

    @ Jiddah – Wow that was serious. Customer service really has to improve in Nigeria. I will be posting more stuff on them.

    Cheers for reading everyone

  4. honestly….i tire oh…customer service in nija is really striving….dey hv no idea wat it means….dey act like ur begging to buy or receive wateva service they are selling/providing,,,,gosh!!!

  5. Every weekend i used to pay a visit this web page, for the reason that i want enjoyment, since this this site conations
    truly pleasant funny information too.

  6. LOL. This was very entertaining and an eye opener. You write like one of my friend speaks. I am glad you commented on a post on BN or I wouldn’t have found out about this blog and THAT would have been a shame.

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