bad customer service

10 Things (Nigerian) Customers Find Annoying

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Nigerian Customers like other people around the world want nothing short of excellent customer service anywhere money has to change hands. We love it when we leave your shop/ office/ service centre feeling like we got our money’s worth. We understand that putting up the right show is necessary to help us feel welcome patronizing your business but there are these plain annoying things you do that rub off on us in the wrong way in your efforts to make us come back again.

1. The fake smiles. We can tell from the starched look and the equally starched contrasting wide smile. You really do not have to smile if you don’t want to. We understand that you may be having a bad day as we normally do sometimes. This doesn’t happen every time and surprising as it is to you, we believe you are human too. Be polite however, and probably let us know how you are feeling at that time if it won’t be too much information.

2. The constant doting over the customer – We don’t always need someone following us around asking “Aunty, what do you want to buy”? Give us space to have a feel of your shop and what you have to offer. We appreciate your eagerness to help but not with that feel of following us around like we would shop-lift if you took your eyes off us for a minute.

3. The standard ‘customer care’ lines: This one line or couple of lines we can almost always recite with the customer care representative. “Your request has been logged and our Engineers are working on it” or “We apologise for inconveniences caused, we will get back to you in due time”. These lines tick us off so much that one starts another round of questions and outbursts wanting to know what the Engineers will be doing anyway and when exactly is ‘due time’ and when exactly the issue raised will be resolved. Cut those ‘training-school speak’, and relate with us in easy, plain ‘I- understand-what-you-are-going-through’, ‘I empathize with you’ language.

4. The patronising ones telling you how nice you look, how another scoop of ice-cream is ok, and who border line flirt and who just keep on talking and talking trying to convince you to buy this and that. We get that friendly and even funny remarks may be incentive enough for a customer to buy an extra muffin but please know how much rambling is needed before you begin to irritate your customer.

5. That those pretty good compliments you pass are not exclusive to us. “Aunty ya hair is fine…” to every Bola, Ngozi and Halima. Be creative… something like “this hair style looks very good on you and this other hairstyle will sure look very good on you too… etc. Be creative again; don’t pass the same compliment customer X and then to customer Y and X and A all at the same time.

6. Service officers that are extremely polite and everything else but helpful. Nice warm reception but you won’t help look for an item you obviously see we have problems locating in your store. No, we will rather not that long explanation of where in the store to get it when you can simply walk up to where it lies and hand it over to us or attempt to point us in the direction. And yes, running out of stock or not offering that service we request for is not a bad thing but not having information no matter how little on where else to get what we need can set us off. If you really do not know, attempt to help us find an answer.

7. Unless we make a mistake in calculating our bill and hand you more money than we should, you shouldn’t paint our slip-ups or wrong assertions/assumptions in bright red colours of ‘I told you so’. No, we are King, always right and we take that seriously. Correct us in kindness, flashing the best of your rehearsed smiles to mask your irritation (thank you very much) and make excuses on our behalf- we are always ultimately right.

8. Time to go and after you successfully get us smiling through your door, your enthusiastic door-keeper says, “Chairman, happy Sunday… anything for me”, “give me the change wey dey ya hand na…” This one sends us right through the door and sometimes never back again unless it is the only choice we got and instead of exiting with a smile, we flee!

10. Making it so obvious you are putting up your warm attitude to have us come back again. One word, be subtle.

Oh, we skipped the ninth point? Well, yes… please don’t get everything right and then in the most random way, skip one customer to attend to the other on a queue or give any sort of preferential treatment… first to arrive customers get attended to first and everyone gets treated equally. Yes, even though you offer VIP or VVIP – every customer is entitled to a walking through your door feeling like royalty.

Jolaade Alao

image rights: demotix images



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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.


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