“Madam, I get oda customers abeg dey go…”

Nigerian customer service is the stuff of nightmares. It is atrocious. Which is why certain posts online amuse me. Whenever I see one by someone based in Europe or America about how they experienced bad service and how they have to come to twitter to vent, I allow myself a little chuckle. Why? I chuckle because they don’t realize how good they’ve got it. You can vent and people will respond. And this response is timeous, in a courteous and progressive fashion. And considering that your angst is being expressed to some poor sap, who most times is an unpaid intern, stuck with the thankless job of fielding complaints on the establishment’s social media, their patience is admirable. The targeted establishment will offer an apology, ask for more details and the next time you visit, changes will have occurred.

The Nigerian version of this? Hmmm, let us assume you even locate a social media page and it is active. And that you can be bothered to complain when it has all of 17 followers. Lots of assumptions as you can see. So you craft a polite, concise & articulate criticism based on a horrible experience, post it and wait. Tada!!! BLOCKED. Yup, blocking is the default response of Nigerian businesses to any form of disapproval with how a service is rendered. Tragic. But then what about when you choose to complain while actually at the establishment?

Well first of all, in the typical Nigerian establishment, complaints are not welcome. Unless you’re a well-dressed man. Or wealthy or appear to be. If you can’t in a convincing fashion say, “Do you know who I am?” you are advised to please keep your damn complaint to yourself. Capisce? Maybe a bit harsh but in my experience true. I have personally experienced this many times. Where a lady friend or companion has faulted the service in some way or the other and rather than an apology, has received thinly veiled insults or bluntly told they are wrong. At which point, if I intervene and second the complaint, lo and behold, the service provider in question is suddenly all apologies and politeness. That of course, is not the worst that can happen. You can find yourself on the receiving end of some rudeness too. Occasionally, the terrible service is compounded with an unwillingness to do better. And that’s why so many restaurants, salons, ice-cream parlors and the like, despite getting off to flying starts, fail to live up to potential.

Nigerian business owners and entrepreneurs, please here is some free advice. Teach your staff how to address customers in a polite and friendly fashion. To remember, that without a steady stream of customers the business will fold. That repeat customers are the backbone of a successful business. And that people are more likely to recommend places that they are treated like royalty than places where a “take it or leave it” approach is applied.

Perhaps, we should take a leaf from our American counterparts and have a Nigerian spinoff of the show “Undercover Boss”. Who knows, maybe, just maybe if the people who own the establishments experience firsthand what its like to be a customer in their own store. Or what their staff are like and how they fail to represent the businesses adequately, they’ll take more care training them. Till then, maybe we should all just Netflix and chill with some homemade goodies.