Cheta Nwanze: The hell that is customer service in Nigeria (Y! FrontPage)


A friend of mine was selling a car to me, and after we had reached an agreement, he did what I consider to be the right thing. He asked to give the car to his mechanic for servicing before the transfer of ownership. Of course I accepted. Then the mistake was made.

Have you noticed that houses built in Nigeria at least in the last decade have one structural problem or the other? Except it be done by Julius Berger they say, there will always be one problem or the other such as lines not being straight, or cracks in the wall as soon as building is done, or even more annoying, the evident fact that these guys do not use plummets when building, and as a result, we never seem to have buildings that actually have 90 degree angles. It is so frustrating.

Sadly, my experiences with manufacturer accredited outlets in Lagos have not been so good either. There was an occasion that my brother’s laptop computer had a problem and rather than taking it to the Computer Village at Otigba as I suggested, he insisted that we go to the HP office in Victoria Island since it was still under warranty and he wanted it done for free. Being that he is not familiar with Lagos, I had to take him. At the HP office, we were treated rudely, before being informed that they HP do not do repairs in Nigeria, but rather through an accredited distributor in Ikoyi, name Redington.

On our arrival, there was a bit of shock as we were informed that the duty engineer could not touch the laptop until his white boss came into the office. Note that work hours started at 0900, and this fellow had not arrived by the time we got there at 0930. He finally sauntered in some minutes after 1000 hours, then the next shocker: he did not take a look at the laptop, but rather the duty engineer did. We were then asked to come back the next day and collect the laptop. Being a Computer Engineer by training, I knew the precise problem with said computer, the fan was broken, and replacing it would take all of five minutes, so why ask us to drive back to the mainland then return? I told the man that much, and our time-table was revised to later that day, but he insisted that for the sake of their record keeping we could not get the laptop back in ten minutes flat! To their credit though, the laptop has not given problems since then.

This same lax attitude to the customer and time is something I have encountered so often in Lagos. At a Union Bank office sometime ago, I witnessed a cash officer verbally assaulting a paying customer. One thing the new generation banks have gotten right to some extent is politeness. For crying out loud if customers close their accounts with the banks, such officers would not have a job to go back to, but then again many people around these parts find such analogies a little bit beyond their level of reasoning.

A bitter experience of bad customer treatment (and dare I say incompetence) centred around a motor mechanic. A friend of mine was selling a car to me, and after we had reached an agreement, he did what I consider to be the right thing. He asked to give the car to his mechanic for servicing before the transfer of ownership. Of course I accepted. Then the mistake was made.

He informed the mechanic that he was selling the car, and the fellow responded along the lines of, “oga if you dey sell am I go get service am well well. Make I hold am for one week.” My friend agreed, and on my part being that I was meant to be out of town, I accepted as well on the condition that the car would be available to me upon my return. Trouble started when I returned to Lagos fully expecting that I would pick up my car on Monday. The mechanic asked that we give him until Wednesday and came up with a litany of excuses as to why Monday was no longer feasible. I accepted. On Wednesday, we went to his workshop, and there he was, but there was no vehicle. He claimed that it had an electrical fault, and that it was at the Ladipo market with an electician. He informed me that he would bring it to me on Saturday. Then I lost it. I retorted that it would be in his interest to have the car at his workshop on Friday. Friday came, and the car was there. I picked it up, and went about my business, and for a while the car appeared to be in the kind of condition you want a car to be in when you just buy it. However, trouble began on Saturday when I got into a hold up. The clutch failed. I simply could not engage gear and that was about the worst experience I have had in a long time. I called the mechanic and he gave me a million reasons why he could not make it to Satellite Town which is where I was. As a result of that, I had to make use of a roadside mechanic to at least engage gear. That worked for a while and they shaved my wallet as well, but I managed to get the car home. I once again spoke with the mechanic fellow and the man had the nerve to tell me that I should bring the car to him (mind you, the car could not engage gear), then collect it two days later. Being that from a former life I have a fair idea of what goes into repairing a car, I knew that it was one of two things, either this fellow had no idea of what to do, or worse still he was just taking the piss. So I voted with my feet and got another mechanic recommended by another friend. The bulk of the work that was done on the car turned out to be in going to Ladipo market to obtain parts. It took the new mechanic an hour to remove the bad parts, and two hours to replace them when we returned from the market.

I wonder how the broken clutch plate evaded the first mechanic, and to make matters worse, he did not even call when I failed to turn up. So much for customer service on his part. Well, when you have piss poor customer service, discerning customers will vote with their feet. I have done that. By the way, the electrical parts of the vehicle which he earlier claimed needed major work, and thus held him up turned out to need just some minor tweaking. He had told the previous owner of the vehicle that a new brain box would cost some N160k. I asked after the price of said brain box at Ladipo and was informed that the cost is N80k.

What is the moral of the tale? Until our skills acquisition is improved, until our workmen learn that there is dignity in labour, do not leave workmen alone. Take time off and stay with them.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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