creatively sharing inspired thought one word at a time
I have long grown used to the fact that Nigerian banks spam their customers with emails. I often feel irritated opening one of my many mail boxes and realizing that thirteen of the fifteen unread nails are from a bank I stopped banking with two years ago. So you can understand my irritation when I read a mail from same bank weeks back felicitating with me on the Happy Customer’s week. I wondered if it was mockery, sheer indifference or outright malicious sarcasm from this seemingly inept bank. How do you call a former customer whose account has been inactive for over 18 months, happy? While I chose to ignore them like I have in the past two years, my thoughts were occupied with all the several touch points I have as a consumer with several solution providers, interactions that define how happy we are as customers based on customer service.
It is an often harped upon point that customer service is largely awful in Nigeria. This is an argument that rolls off the tongues of consumers at will, yet with all the power in their hands, the average customer does little or nothing about it. This is one malady that does not need the government to address,yet all we often do is complain and complain some more. I have always been an advocate of making my customer service grievances known and voting with my feet and pocket afterwards. You can’t give me consistently poor service and still expect me to open my wallet for you. Not when I worked for the cash. Even if I stole it. Abi na jazz!
This Happy Customer’s week, while reminiscing on all the stand out services I have gotten from several providers down the years and those that have messed me up big time, I had a spectacular experience that encapsulated the week. I had been feeling ill treated by my bank for a while. I had banked with them for almost a decade and my complaints seemed not to be yielding the desired change. So you can imagine my anger when I spent almost two weeks trying to replace a bank card that had been swallowed in a third party ATM. After spending a few minutes in the banking hall screaming at every bank staff that tried to placate me with empty platitudes, I was driven up the wall when I got an alert on my way back to the office informing me of a COT on the transaction I had done in the bank in the absence of the card. Insult upon injury!! I made a few calls and got the contact details of the CEO of the bank and decided to write her. I spent the next ten minutes detailing all my grievances and instances of shitty services, some going back as far back as decade. I really needed to vent and vent properly,else there was no way I was going to be productive at work that day. With that done I decided to get on with the day.
Few hours later, the CEO got in touch. She apologized for all the inconveniences I had experienced and promised that while she was overseas on a trip and could not intervene more personally, she was getting one of her EDs to get in touch and resolve all my complaints. Over the next week, i received over a dozen calls from different managers from this bank and all showing genuine empathy and a resolve to not just address my concerns but take steps to avoid its recurrence not just with my but any of their customers in future. There is the cynical view that I would have not got the concerned response if the bank CEO had not gotten personally involved. There may be some point in that but she could easily have avoided getting involved personally and delegated it to one of her more junior subordinates without responding and reaching out to me. After all, I am sure whatever business deal or conference she was closing abroad was more relevant to the banks balance sheet than the little sum in my account.
While I am presently a happy customer of this bank, I have always been a happy customer of the Nigerian Post Office (NIPOST). It sounds strange but I have always vouched for NIPOST and in over two decades of being a dedicated customer, they have shown me nothing but love and attention. I often tell folks that the only government agency that works in Naija is the post office. No matter how much the communication industry has been disrupted by distinct innovations, no matter how little funding they get from the government, through all of these and more NIPOST has remained quietly effective and providing comparatively good service. I have used postal services on regular basis in several advanced environments , bar the aesthetics, NIPOST staff can hold their own with their foreign counterparts. My happy customer mode was not being activated by experiences in a single post office branch; I have had consistently good customer experiences in Port Harcourt, Lagos and even Warri (where a parcel of mine was mistakenly sent). I have had postmen call me on their phones (with their own credit )and reassured me that my parcel will be delivered on the anticipated day even if it meant delivering it outside their working hours. I have had postmasters help trace parcels outside their jurisdiction and pursue my complaints to a logical conclusion. I understand that NIPOST gets it wrong sometimes but unlike most government organizations they are quietly effective and I have found them reliable within human constraints. My friends find it crazy when I say that I would rather use SPEEDPOST (a NIPOST service) than DHL if given a choice.
Some times, good customer service is fleeting but such fleeting moments linger for long. That describes the sort of good service I got from the Nigerian arm of Kalahari, the online shop. The staff were ever courteous, returning calls as at when due and making efforts to track and deliver your order. It was a real shame for me that its parent company decided to pull the plug and shut down the business. Besides the gems I found in their book catalog, I miss their efficient Customer support staff. They would call and sound like they have known you for years, while calming frayed nerves when an order had not arrived on time and call after it arrives to confirm you were satisfied with the delivery.
Presently, there is this raging argument among the Lagos middle class; who makes better pizza between Domino’s Pizza and Debonair Pizza. I have tried both, yet I remain unsure. However, one thing I am certain about is that the customer service of Domino’s is unrivaled. Apart from he welcoming attitude of the staff at the reception, the home delivery experience has been a welcome relief. Interacting with several deliverymen of theirs who have delivered to my home leaves me convinced that a deliberate effort was made in training them. The crowning testimony of my Domino’s experience occurred during the Happy Customer’s week. I had dashed out of the house with a few visitors and on our way back from after a short ride, I suggested my visitors try a cup of Coldstone Ice cream (Coldstone is Domino’s sister franchise in Nigeria) as they were visitors in Lagos. Only when we were at the till about to pay did I realize that I no longer had an ATM card in my wallet and my guests had forgotten theirs at my apartment. We rummaged the car and came up with an amount which was a hundred naira less than the price of the Ice cream. I looked embarrassed but not embarrassed enough to give up the Ice cream. The attendant took genuine pity at us and offered to pay the balance so we could go home with our treat. I stopped at that pizza parlour every evening for the next four days trying to catch the same lady on an evening shift. When I finally did (on the fourth day) not only did I refund her the money with which she completed our bill days back but I willingly gave her a relatively enormous tip. The funniest bit was that she struggled to remember the incident. No gainsaying that Coldstone and Domino’s have won a customer for life (leave that weight matter. It is not my portion!).
While I wish that the earlier mentioned bank with which I have an inactive and dormant account will stop spamming my mailbox and sending automated Happy Customer’s week greetings to a customer that does not exist, I wish to remind the likes of Mrs. Bola Adesola, Abby Quadri, Jackson Ubeku, Nkechi Nwose, Mr Amaechi (the EMS manager at NIPOST Mothercat Junction), Joy (a sales attendant at Coldstone, Toyin Street) and late Alhaji Abubakar Musa Argungu (who while long dead, his good works at NPOST remain indelible) that they have a truly happy customer in me. The aforementioned persons may not be perfect, they may have offered shitty service to someone in the past and maybe some more in the future. However, I am assured that they will offer good service more often than not and with their kind there is hope for a revolutionized customer service experience in Nigeria.