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Customer First: A Story of Exceptional Service

By Allwell Nwankwo

Two weeks ago, many organisations celebrated the customer service week. It’s quite heart-warming that the celebrations are catching on in this part of the world. Some companies took out adverts in newspapers to appreciate their customers. Of course, many also sent text messages (I received quite a few) and even offered commemorative gifts/freebies to customers that visited within that week. My advice: let’s celebrate our customers every day.

In the spirit of the week, we threw a challenge to readers of this column to share stories of exceptional service received anywhere in Nigeria. We offered copies of two books – How to Serve & Keep Your Customers and 20 Universal Laws of Service Excellence – that are arguably the best on customer service written by a Nigerian, with a Nigerian perspective and for Nigerians, although the principles they espouse are universal. A reader who simply identified herself as Susan sent in a brilliant story of integrity, care and extra-mile attitude exhibited by a worker in Ecobank. I think the story is best told in her words.

“My exceptional customer service experience occurred sometime last year at the University of Lagos branch of Ecobank,” Susan wrote. “I had gone to deposit some money into my account. However, for some unknown reason, I overpaid the bank teller by 10,000 Naira. On reaching home, I realised some of the money was missing. Later that day, I received a call from the bank asking to confirm my details and informing me of my mistake. I was then told to come for my money the following day. I was completely blown away, but very grateful to the bank staff when I received my money intact.”

You know that banks advise customers to count their money before they leave the banking hall, as the banks would not be liable for any shortage noticed later on. So if you decide to over-pay the teller and walk away, as our people say, “you’re on your own.” Of course, there are still honest people around who would not sell their conscience for money, no matter the temptation. This teller in question was not only honest but she was also very meticulous.

With the avalanche of cash the typical teller deals with, it could be a tough call to determine which customer overpaid. But this teller did. What’s more? The teller (or the bank) took the initiative to reach the customer before she would call – a case of catching the problem before the customer complains. Some other banks would have waited for the customer to complain and then asked her to prove she owned the money!

No doubt, this is a story of trust-inspiring integrity, which Susan is not likely to forget soon. Although she didn’t say so, we can safely assume that she would easily recommend the bank to her friends and relations. And this is what we preach here: Convert your customers to eager advocates by giving them service that “blows them away,” to use Susan’s expression.

Customer Service Awards
The Nigerian Customer Service Awards will hold on October 31 in Abuja, to recognise organisations adjudged to have excelled in delivering exceptional service in various sectors. Using a combination of customer surveys and mystery shopping, the organisers have identified organisations that are deserving of such honour. This is a commendable move. The awards are the brain-child of a gentleman named Aliu Ilias. Although Aliu and I are yet to meet, we have exchanged phone calls and emails and I can tell you that his passion for customer service is infectious. Nigeria definitely needs more people like him and his team.

A platform for you
CustomerFirst, as you know, champions the cause of service excellence in the private and public sectors in Nigeria. To do this, we criticise, praise, teach, motivate, advise, encourage and learn. We’re delighted that quite a number of customer service representatives, marketing professionals, small business owners and those interested in service “tune in” every week. So, do you have suggestions on issues or service topics you’d like us to discuss? Let us know. Our mission is to help you excel in service, and enjoy the rewards that come with a reputation for service excellence.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.