Welcome to a new edition of the workbooth magazine on the customer-centric organisation. University of Lagos is a federal University and as usual like many other federal institutions, they are far off from caring about customer relationships like a lot of corporate organisations, especially towards students. They are rarely tuned to the feelings of students and as an undergraduate student in the varsity, for up to six years(all thanks to COVID19), I have seen it played out on many occasions.
We are back to school, resuming second semester offline, in the school vicinity, and the school hostel has also opened for students to move in. Here, Hall Porters barely care about students’ feelings except when they are keen on extorting a lot of us to give them money. Many times, it’s borderline troubling, watching the scenarios play out. These are federal government employed staff asking money from students to add their (maybe meager?) salary. In the hostel, porters care about the feelings of those they know. Those that give them money. And also, it is a funny sight seeing how their souls were slightly lifted when a student squeezed money into their hands. Laughable.
During my internship, I had first hand experience with customer relations in the institution. When we were asked to get our details from CILPU for the internship, on arriving there, the attendant on duty insisted we come with the required amount of money on the excuse that they don’t have change and won’t labour for us. My memory is failing me a little bit, but it was around ₦150 Nigerian currency. A lot of times, it was hard owning that kind of money. Especially when the extra ₦50. The man listened to no one’s plea but rather insisted we come with the exact amount of money.
For some of us, the only available option was to buy something from sellers out there and get change. And it’s also ridiculous that among all the 400l undergraduate students that had come to pay, he did not have change. To him, we needed him not otherwise whereas without us, he won’t have a job to sustain him. Without us, he won’t be there, making orders which didn’t make sense. We had nothing to say, because as a customer at that period, odds weren’t in our favour.
Being an intern at the Nigerian Ports Authority, on many occasions, the experience was not so different, but I witnessed a better customer service where customer relations cared about services and were ready to serve in their duties.
Something that stood out was the differing behavioural attitudes of the customer service staff. They all were employed to handle the same activities. How to serve customers right, but there was something distinguishing about them. There were many of them that never let smiles leave their faces and there were those that barely smiled. As an organisation, how do you sieve those who don’t carry out their duties from those who do? They were all employed based on the same standard. Certificates. But they have different approaches to customers because attitude is not what can be learnt inside the four walls of the university.
It’s why every organisation is interested in attitude. What are you made of concerning your attitude and how can it impact positively to the organisation? How have you been trained and structured?
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Obinna Tony-Francis Ochem is a freelance writer, who navigates through gender, class, sexuality, climate change and shape shifting monsters. He is alumni of the Lolwe Fiction Workshop facilitated by Zukiswa Wanner and SpringNG '20 cohort writing mentorship programme. His works are published or forthcoming on Elseisy Blog, Kalahari Review, Rustintimes, LivingFreeUk, Punocracy Longlist '19 & 20, Tush Magazine essay finalist/winner, Chinụa Achebe Essay Anthology, SpringNG anthology, and The WorkBooth magazine. A finalist for Kalahari Review Igby Prize for Non-Fiction and longlisted for Second edition of Kitodiaries Prize for Literature. Also, a finalist for the '19 Quramo Writers' Prize for his manuscript, Deep Ocean, and Afire '19 Linda Ikeji Prize for Literature, for Living in the Ghetto. He is currently studying Marine Sciences at the University of Lagos and has a link to his works, https://linktr.ee/obynofranc. He tweets, @obynofranc.