My first year in Lagos, I fought several customer service battles. From cashiers trying to swindle me of my change in stores to fuel station attendants pumping less gas than you ordered. From products that don’t measure up being sold as premium, to outright rude salespeople who disrespect you for requesting information on products or services you seek to purchase.
One incident that changed everything was visiting a restaurant with my colleagues and ordering rice and protein. I asked for the price before purchase, but on paying at the cashier, the price had increased. I calmly asked that the price be adjusted, or that the protein costing more be taken out. They refused. For the principle of it, I wasn’t willing to pay more, and both my colleagues and the cashiers considered me cruel as the cashier would have to make up the price.
After this incident and a few others, I simply became complacent like several Nigerians. I mean, we spend so much time in Lagos traffic. We have several worries, and if we manage to get by without getting harmed, we simply look the other way.
Within the last two months, two individuals at two Nigerian businesses have surprised me.
When Avengers: End Game was released in April, tickets were sold out for every showing at every cinema for the first week. Arriving twenty minutes before showtime most likely meant having to wait to watch the next showing. I headed out to Grand Cinema in Lekki with my pre-teen, who had declared me a betrayer for watching with my colleagues a few days prior.
We stepped into the elevator with a man headed to the same floor. My five-year-old stepped on him, and we apologized. We arrived to watch the 11:15 AM showing at 10:45 AM.
Tickets were already sold out, and this automatically threw a curve into my plan for the day. We left to get some groceries, while I tried to rearrange my schedule for the day in my head, and decide whether we could come back for the 1:50 PM showing. We got done and returned to the cinema at noon, went on to the cashier to purchase tickets for 1:50 PM. Standing across the cashier point was the man we saw in the elevator earlier. “The movie is sold out,” he said. Needless to say, we were very disappointed. Then he said, “I was in the elevator with you earlier, and I knew you would come back, seeing as your son really wanted to see the movie. I saved you some tickets.” Imagine our surprise and joy.
This is customer service. Adding a wow effect, exceeding your customer’s expectation, making something simple excellent. This is what Sam at Grand Cinema Lekki did.
Another time, I purchased a certain brand of packaged ofada from a store in Sangotedo. I got home, poured it into a bowl, and found some impurities inside. My first instinct was to dump it all, forgive myself for trusting yet another Nigerian brand, never try it again. My first instinct was to save my energy. However, I chose to call the number on the packaging. It rang! How strange was that? I find that several of such are switched off (ever tried calling the phone numbers on school buses or company vehicles?). A lady picked up, and I gave feedback on the product. I told her how much I root for local businesses because it’s about time we start to export our local goods, and this won’t be possible with poor packaging and inadequate quality control. She listened, apologised, offered to pick up the product as a case study to teach the workforce. She then went ahead and gave me another pack of ofada rice and a bonus pack of beans.
These two incidences stand out and deserve to be lauded. I believe every Nigerian has at least one story of poor customer service daily. We have however become numb/immune to these things, so much that we don’t bother pointing out misnomers anymore. We even often get sentimental and avoid getting the perpetrator in trouble by giving feedback.
To Sam of Grand Cinema and Kofo of Grand J, you have renewed my faith in the ability to get it right in customer service, and your businesses are lucky to have you.