Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is this the modern way of selling?

After forcing myself into my sister and her husband’s dinner plans on Sunday, they considered my plea and took me to dinner. As we were enjoying our meal, two ladies walked in, sat at the table next to us and started conversing loudly. They kept calling for the waiter. I noticed that my sister was eavesdropping, for a second I told her to stop but then I realised that I also started eavesdropping (one of the ladies was talking about the toothpaste that she uses which can only be bought in Spain). A few minutes later I heard her say “excuse me” loudly again, thinking that she was calling for the waiter for the hundredth time, I didn’t bother to look in her direction, but when the” excuse me” started sounding like it was coming towards me, I turned to look at her and I realised that she was calling for me. Holding up a little package from where she sat, she said “hi I just wanted to say that I sell MAC powder, I get them from America and I am selling them at a discounted price, i am having a kind of sale, trying to sell them all off” I smiled politely, thanked her and said that I wasn’t interested. (Since my sister and I were arguing about the toothpaste being from Spain or not, I decided to ask the lady) I told her that I was eavesdropping earlier and heard about her wonder toothpaste, so she started the story about her sensitive teeth and how she found some toothpaste that can only be bought in Spain, since I live in Lagos and have no plans of travelling to Spain or changing my toothpaste, I soon lost interest (if at this point she brought out a tube of toothpaste and advertised that she sold it, I probably wouldn’t have minded, though it would be very unlikely that I would buy it). She must have noticed my disinterest as she shouted across the table again “I sell accessories too” holding out the one she was wearing around her neck.” They are in my car outside, I can show you” she continued. I smiled again and politely told her that I wasn’t interested. She then asked for my complimentary card, which I didn’t have with me, she went on to ask for my number so I gave it to her (at least that was for free and I definitely know how to deal with phone calls from strangers) she gave me hers and told me once again that she sold so many other things.
This was a strange experience for me. Why would I want to buy cosmetics from a total stranger at a restaurant? Did this mean that she came in with the intentions of selling her cosmetics in there? (She carried them in a separate plastic bag when she came in). A couple of times I have seen people hand out complimentary cards politely (in a stylish manner) in enclosed places but this was the first time that I would experience someone waving a product from a distance to me at a restaurant in the name of marketing. I think it might actually have been a different case if I said to her that I liked the powder she was wearing and she then answered back saying that she actually had some for sale. That wouldn’t be as bad as a co customer trying to sell you powder, calling for your attention while interrupting the consumption of your favourite apple crumble and custard. Ridiculous I’d say!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You Can Never Get A Limo To Move Like a Sports Car (Does education make a difference?)

On this beautiful Monday, after a fabulous birthday weekend, I decided it was time to respond to my friends messages since my BB had been on crack the whole weekend. So I said hey to Kay, thanked him for my birthday wishes then i noticed his profile picture. it looked like a clip from a newspaper but with his picture. i got excited and asked him about it. He confirmed that he was in the weekend paper for an article he wrote on Ecommerce. i got even more excited and accused him of living my dream which led us to the conversation about customer service in Nigeria.. our conversation went thus:
Me, Agent Zero

Me: Will u at least read my blog?
Agent Zero: I will read ur blog
Agent Zero: It’s the Nigerian jungle really, a writer like urself that wants to write about customer service has to be careful in delivering a msg that will be of relevance and direct experience with the people in this economy, meanwhile, as we all know, the kind of customer service u wish for, and would like them to adopt, is of the western world. So here lies the problem. How do u make people in this country side with what u are saying, when they don't even believe in it.
Agent Zero: If u have interesting write-ups, it will get published, don't worry about that.
Me: Hmm that's a point, advice me, how will I make them side what I'm saying
Agent Zero: Its gradual
Agent Zero: U probably have to go to the origin, which is culture and the concept of change
Agent Zero: The people at tantalizers that are giving bad customer service, ask them how much customer service training have they had since they started working there
Agent Zero: Or did they just hire them, teach them about the various foods, their prices and how to work the register....
Me: I'm sure they probably do not have any training.. my dream.. I would love to train bottom line employees
Agent Zero: That's what my sunday article is on, training and my solutions that save money. People get trained in top organizations, it cost money, but they have money, in a smaller organization like chicken republic, that has a three man rotation for an entire day, it cost too much to train those guys the correct way
Me: Those re the sort of people I'm interested in.. People in that food, supermarkets etc
Me: But do u think there is a cheaper way I can get them trained
Agent Zero: No real competition btw tantalizers and TFC, so why would any of the organizations stress or push for competitive advantages, I.e, make our servers better so we can sell more.......
Agent Zero: Its reverse engineering
Me: Hmmm
Me: I like this conversation its making my brain work
Agent Zero: Hire graduates and pay them a lot, make customer service ur number one objective........then see what ur restaurant lobby will be during lunch hours and after work, the money starts to come back gradually
Agent Zero: But who is ready to do that in Nigeria, NOBODY
Agent Zero: If u go into McDonalds, the manager is someone doing his masters and just took the McDonalds job part time or cos of work schedule flexibility
Me: True
Agent Zero: So he knows how to speak to people
Me: Hmm I have so much to think about
Agent Zero: All the little girls taking ur orders, are girls in college, and doing part time gigs. There are some traces of education. No one in McDonalds holds that job as a career, except for the district managers that have two to three stores under them
Me: You re very right
Agent Zero: So what do we do about customer service in Nigeria. First thing, fire all the those working in the tantalizers now, cos u can never get a limo to move like a sports car
Me: Lol
Me: A limo can never move like a sports car ...i love that
Agent Zero: Go to tera culture, there is a guy that serves u there, the last time I was there, I had to ask him if he owned tera culture or maybe his family did, and he said no.
Agent Zero: He asked why I asked that because he is a regular worker, I said he served me and catered to me like the perception of service mattered to him more than just serving. He smiled and said” I am a graduate of university of ife”. He took the job because of economic circumstance.
Agent Zero: I literally thought he owned the joint

So Kay gave me his full permission to put up our conversation which i was excited about.
Yesterday i went to Brown’s, a cafe, with my friend. The girl who attended to us, served us so well, my friends and i couldn’t help but ask how long she had been working at the cafe. She told us that she had been working in the cafe since it opened 6months ago. She also happens to be a part time chemistry student at the Lagos state University (LASU). Immediately, I remembered my conversation with Kay and sent him a message saying that i confirmed his theory about graduates delivering better services... Don’t get me wrong some graduates can be aggressive at times, being a graduate doesn’t guarantee that an employee will deliver exceptional services but i honestly feel that it would reduce the number of bad customer service that we receive. A level of good education coupled with training will make a huge difference in our organisations and the society at large.
To be continued.....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A tribute to Mr Saka – The Carpenter

Mr Saka was a carpenter i met a few years ago who became my friend. He was not a fancy furniture maker, no no no, he was a real carpenter, the type that you will see sawing wood in front of his workshop with his little white cap, shouting in Yoruba at his 14 year old apprentice to hurry up and buy some nails.

Though he didn’t go to university or have any professional training, Mr Saka’s customer service was more exceptional than that of some people who graduated from the university. He was a cool and calm man who would go through any length to ensure that his customers were satisfied with whatever furniture he made or mends for them.

Through referrals, Mr Saka serviced a lot of people he would never have dreamt to meet. His ever humble and respectful character announced and advertised him wherever he went.

Ask him to come to your house just to seek his opinion on a job, he would run down and thank you when leaving. Mr Saka made me free furniture one time when i accused him of not giving me a Christmas present as his faithful customer. He was so flexible with his job that he could come to your house at anytime just to mend a broken wardrobe; he didn’t mind that you didn’t buy it from him; he would mend it like it was his own and advise you on how to look after it.

One day, when we needed Mr Saka to do a job for us at work, we were unable to reach him(which was very unlike him) so we sent somebody to look for him at home. The messenger came back with the news that Mr Saka was ill. The following week we heard he died. “Impossible” i shouted, “he probably went to his village for a little while” i said knowing that i was sounding silly. Well, Mr Saka truly died because his family confirmed and i haven’t seen him ever since. I had some work pending for him, and every time I remember him, i think about the exceptional services that he rendered.

Today at work, we sit and stare at these temporary dividers that Mr Saka always fixed and removed for us for free whenever we needed to use that particular room( the room is a multi-purpose room, we have wooden dividers demarcating it from others, but when we need a big space we remove the dividers, he always always always does this for us ) and have now realised that we need another carpenter. we sincerely miss him

Mr Saka’s fantastic services will never be forgotten, he was born with good customer service skills.