Friendliness is a basic expectation for employees serving customers. It doesn’t cost anything and isn’t really a skill that needs to be trained. So why do we still receive unfriendly service over and over again?
I remember walking into a leading Nigerian bank in Lagos recently, the banking hall was jam packed, several people with several money matters to settle. I personally don’t like banking halls and I only go when it is absolutely necessary, I patiently stood in line of a long queue to have the attention of a customer service representative. In a few minutes I could feel the tension of people in line who were not satisfied with the way and manner these reps attended to their job, right there a drama ensued.
A lady who was being attended to couldn’t take the sluggishness of the reps, she started to voice out her displeasure, soon enough everybody joined in, the way and manner they weren’t about their work didn’t show any regard for the customers waiting in line, they ate, side talked and had this nonchalant attitude. A few more bruhahaha’s and the manager had to come settle issues and pacify customers which in my opinion wasn’t impressive or professional at all but people just compromised to allow peace
Soon after the Nigerian customer service culture was the discussion and everyone had something to say about their experiences with several customer service agents, mostly poor and in some cases appalling. I have personally experienced too many to count on both hands, the culture of negligence to customer needs is alarming in Nigeria. It is even much more pronounced with government or public establishments; the dearth of good service relation with customer or the citizen is beyond belief. It would suffice to say that given this situation; a company that has an excellent customer service culture in Nigeria today is going to profit a lot from it because Nigerians like every other people appreciate good customer service.
This brings us to the question of why this is so, why is there a lackadaisical attitude to customer service in general? Aren’t we a naturally welcoming warm and respectable people? Why can’t our traditional culture of warmth and respect be readily expressed in our market places?
- There are plenty of reasons why employees might not feel friendly. Upset customers, heavy workloads, demanding bosses, and poor products can all make an employee feel frustrated. This says nothing about what types of stress may be going on in employees’ personal lives. “Leave your problems at home” is simplistic advice that’s much easier said than done.
- Contact centers often provide a great example of a work environment that can bring many of these factors together. Agents may feel frustration sinking in when they serve irate customer after irate customer. At the same time, their boss is breathing down their neck demanding greater productivity while monitoring their every move, even bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, agents might feel powerless to solve many of the problems they encounter that are caused by defective products or poorly designed processes.
- Corruption and a wrong mindset of service: many customer service reps think their position gives them a right of ownership, a position where they can take advantage of someone who needs help. You almost can’t get anything done in Lagos today without bribing or giving something, even the gate man want s to use his power as a gateman for personal benefit, in cases where they have no choice they call customers different names “chairman, my oga, wetin dey for the boys etc”, so that he or she drops some money or change. Corruption has reduced many people to beggarly people that instead of doing their job with dignity and pride they result into attitudes that are detrimental to them and the company’s they work with.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
It starts by setting a positive example. Employees are much more likely to be friendly when they have a boss who is friendly, kind, and treats them with respect. On the other hand, gruffly telling employees to “act happier or you’ll get a memo” rarely has the desired effect.
Involve employees in finding solutions to your toughest customer service challenges. This works in two ways. First, employees feel more empowered when they are able to give meaningful input on how to serve customers better. Second, working with upset customers requires a great deal of emotional labor so fixing the problems that upset customers naturally makes the job easier.
Finally, good leadership corporately and nationally opposed to corruption is the only antidote to it to the attitude of many Nigerians today, corruption has dictated another lifestyle and mindset that is detrimental to the development of the nation at large. It has trickled down from the leadership over the years to the average citizen. Private companies in Nigeria should make every effort to imbibe strong ethical and moral values into their workers deliberately so as to shift the wrong mindsets