The customer’s perception is your reality- Kate Zabriskie
You walk into an office to do business and the first welcome you get is a chewing-gum-smacking or nail-filing receptionist who’s more interested in the Nollywood movie showing on African Magic or the office gossip she’s engrossed in over the intercom than anything you have to say. I am certain that many people can relate to this. Whether it is a Supermarket, Hotel, Bank or Customer Care Center of a Telecoms operator, bad customer service has become the hallmark of businesses in our society. It almost appears as though we have accepted the status quo as we only complain but hardly ever do anything about it, which I personally blame on the unnecessarily sentimental nature of our society. Take the case of my encounter with this particular lady who is responsible for receiving payment for parking at a popular mall on the mainland and who I found to be tacitly rude on a couple of occasions when I had cause to deal with her. I can recall mentioning to my friend that I would report her to her employers on one of such occasions and the response I got was “Lolade, please don’t do that because she may lose her job as a result.” That of course laid the issue to rest as I immediately had a rethink over the matter. I however made sure to let my friend know that it was due to such sentiments that people in customer service jobs continue to get away such unprofessional behavior!
When businesses start in Nigeria, more often than not the service is very good, the representatives of the organisation are polite and gain many customers as a result of good service. Fast forward to a couple of months down the line and things change drastically, the once polite staff are suddenly aloof and the service delivery becomes nothing to write home about. The example of a small chops catering business in Ikeja which a couple of my colleagues and I used to love to patronize readily comes to mind. When they started out, you were guaranteed to get hot well prepared snacks but now it’s either you are presented with stone cold snacks or for some inexplicable reason one or 2 pieces that should make up the pack are missing, yet the price remains the same! This is the story of many businesses and brands in Nigeria, the customer is taken for granted especially when the company appears to be at the peak of their success and we wonder why businesses are dying everyday.
I don’t know who’s more guilty of poor customer service, whether it is the bank where the front line staff are obviously nicer and would in the speed of light attend to a customer who is perceived to be wealthy or influential while the haggard looking market woman saving her pennies daily is left on the queue for ages, or the Customer Care Representative of a Telecommunications company who perfunctorily thanks you for choosing her company as your service provider after leaving you more confused and annoyed and without solving the problem you complained about, or the security guard of a large corporation who talks to you brashly or almost totally ignores you because you have committed the grave sin of not showing up with a car at his gate. He forgets that even if you came job hunting, if you eventually get the job, you automatically become his boss. At that point he has the “power” over you and will wield it as he likes. This is one of the reasons why I personally don’t subscribe to giving a tip unless a Customer Service Personnel has treated me very well or offered exceptional service.
Being in the business of client service myself, I know that the Client Service Executive is just like every other person who has personal problems and moods. I am also well aware that some clients/customers can be very difficult to deal with, but isn’t that where professionalism comes in? After all Broadcasters, News Anchors and Presenters have to show up everyday with a smile on their faces regardless of what may be going on with them behind the scenes. It’s the nature of the job! The over flogged sayings “The customer is king” and “The Customer is always right” have become broken records but should still serve as daily reminders for anybody involved in customer service. Organisations (no matter how big) should realize that they take huge risks by employing incompetent, ill-mannered and untrained personnel as Customer Service Officers and will most likely pay dearly for it in the long run if appropriate steps are not taken to remedy the situation.