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Reminiscing on Customer Service Week


Customer Service week has come and gone. I received so many emails and text messages from all the big businesses I patronise for one thing to the other. They were trying to appreciate me for patronizing them. All well and good.

However, I really wish I could feel that these businesses truly appreciate me as their customer in my every day engagement with them. I remember my experiences in recent times with these same organizations and I am so unimpressed by their mails and messages. I will recount a few of these experiences and maybe you’ll understand my feelings.

I went to cut a draft at one of the banks and stood on a queue all by myself for 45 minutes. No apologies, no explanations, nothing. Another bank, my mobile banking services have been disrupted because I changed my phone and I have not yet resolved it. Another bank debited my account when I made a POS purchase that was declined. I was debited 2 months ago and as I write, it has not been resolved. I know people who open accounts but cannot access their funds for one reason or the other, technicalities they knew nothing about as they opened the accounts.

Of course the 3 banks sent me messages thanking and appreciating me, but I just could not appreciate it. Because in the real sense of it, I am not satisfied by the way I am treated. I have much higher expectations, than my experience.

So it does not see like I have something against the banks, I went to a restaurant recently and the lady who served us complained to us, her customers, that the staff never get any of the service charges we pay. When I go to the supermarket, their cashiers act like they are doing me a favour by selling to me. Or is it the security men at the gates of the highbrow estates in Lekki and Victoria Island. They seem to feel they are co-owners of the properties, so opening gates take forever. They are gisting on their phones and driving us all up the wall.

As a Customer Service Trainer, I shake my head everywhere I go; banks, supermarkets, restaurants, telco service centres, everywhere. It just seems like Customer Service is a cliché. It does not mean what the business books say. In Nigeria, we have our own genre of Customer Service.

Most of the mails I received during the Customer Service Week, came directly addressed to me. ‘Dear Chinwe’. It sounds like they are talking to me, but I know that is technology. It has nothing to do with me. It is an automated system which has instruction to use my first name. It does not really mean much, which is why the same business will keep me on their queue for 45 minutes to cut a bank draft. It does not add up for me.

For many Nigerians, I hear them complain, but every business, especially the big ones claim customer satisfaction, as one of their strong points. It is not obvious to me. They sell themselves so strongly through their adverts and communication but we stand at their doors and we are disappointed.

What needs to happen? When will my expectation as a customer and my experience tally so that I can really claim to be satisfied? It is one thing to communicate your intentions as a business and quite another to actually bring them to life. I know that our business terrain is difficult, so that keeping promises can be daunting, difficult and expensive. So I just want to see that the businesses are committed to improving. My experience today should be slightly better than my experience yesterday.

So while I am complaining because I expect more, I want to use this medium to celebrate the good experiences. I must commend Smile Communications who seem to be getting stronger and stronger in Lagos. I bought an internet bundle recently and needed some help with setting it all up. I called their service center and spoke with a gentleman simply called Biodun. He did not have an overtly British or American accent, a regular Nigerian man. However, he put me through in such a professional and truly friendly manner that I was really impressed. I was happy because it simply meant that what we teach is possible. Smile completely blew my mind, when a few days later, a young lady, called just to find out if I was having any issues with their services. This is supposed to be normal standard practice when organizations claim Customer Service as one of their strengths. It is not supposed to be the exception but the norm. I also happen to be enjoying their services, which means that I would recommend them and increase my spending with them simply because I am satisfied.

Another more recent experience. I traveled to Canada recently by KLM. I find them efficient, affordable and friendly enough. As I arrived at the airport, there was a long queue about 5 hours before the flight. I knew something was wrong. Apparently, the day before, the flight to Amsterdam had been cancelled. So there was this huge crowd. We all got on the plane and had smooth ride to destination. However, Amsterdam was a connecting flight for me. I was on my way to Toronto.

It was time to leave for Toronto and the flight was delayed by two hours. We sat in the plane waiting for them to resolve baggage issues. It occurred to me there might be a problem with my luggage because of the massive crowd in Lagos. After 2 hours, we took off for Toronto and arrived safely. I get past immigration, then got to baggage claim and my suitcase was not there. It was a sad moment. I was still going an hour out of Toronto and it would cost me about $120 to come back to the airport to collect my stuff. That is my experience with baggage reclaim in Nigeria. You cannot imagine how relieved I was when the guy at the counter told me they would bring it to me the next morning. I would not need to go back to the airport.

I got to my place of abode and thought to get some clothes to wear, not expecting to get the suitcase for another 2 days. I came back from shopping and was pleasantly surprised when my host told me the airline called and would deliver the suitcase that night. It actually got to me that night. I was so happy. I thought, ‘now this is customer service’. Making sure I was not inconvenienced beyond what was unavoidable.

Customer Service Week is over, but that is where our true experiences should start. Can our businesses truly commit to us as their customers and satisfy us when we come to their gates? Can they please keep their promises to us every time we come in contact with them? Can they at least try to keep their promises, if not 100% at least 50%. As businesses, we all need to up our game. Customers have expectations that are justifiable. Let us all commit to meet those expectations.

Once again, Well done Smile Communications and KLM. Keep up the good work.

Chinwe Kalu

Value Creation Consultant

+234 803 201 2458

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