Dear BOLT Driver
By: Deji Yesufu
Yesterday will be the third time I would be employing your services and it is already clear to me where your deficiencies are. I am writing this public letter to you with the hope that some of you that take up this job can get the best out of it. I suspect that there is nothing I will be writing in this essay that will be new to you because I am aware that the company that employed your services takes the effort to train you very well on customer care and basic work etiquette. After I sent in a poor report on the gentleman that drove me home yesterday, BOLT sent me a letter of apology and said among other things:
“… We are sorry that you had to deal with this and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you may have expereienced as a result of this issue. This is is definitely not the type of services we are aiming to provide our clients. Unfortunately, not all our drivers follow our instructions. This is a one-off situation and we will be investigating what led to this…”
So, I will only be reiterating some of the instructions that I know your company has already given to you and I hope that as this is coming directly from a customer, not your bosses, it will further encourage you to do your job well.
First, may I begin by reminding you or perhaps informing you that the job of a private company transporter, like the one you are employed with at BOLT, is one of the best jobs in the world. It is true that the pay may not be excellent; it is true there are dangers, along with the usual ups and downs that comes with driving on Nigerian roads; yet it is a job that offers a lot of opportunities that you can leverage on to move forward in life. There is the liberty of time it gives you. One of the guys that drove me told me that he completes his work for the day at 5pm and still earns enough at the end of the week. It is a job you can do along with a 9am to 4pm job. You can shut down your driver’s app, while you pursue some other businesses and put it back on whenever you want. It is simply work and earn as you go – not too many people have such liberties with the job they do.
Then there are the opportunities of meeting people. And I do not mean ordinary people. Whoever can afford to charter private vehicles for transportation in Nigeria of today will not be in the lower class of soceity. While a few middle class earners will employ your services, most of the people who will call you are folks in the upper class. Every single person in this world, no matter how rich they are, has a need. God has designed humanity to be in need always. The manner you attend to your customers can be your ticket out of this job into doing something much better, while you also earn much more. The way you drive can tell a customer that you are the best person to meet his/her need. This is not something your employers will tell you because they will not want to loose you to others. The secret words here are: CUSTOMER CARE, COURTESY, RESPECT and being COURTEOUS.
For example, you drive into the location where you are to pick up your customer. You see the customer, worn out from the day’s job, sitting under a tree by his children’s school. You can tell he has ordered for your services to ferry his family home. You drive in, park your car – with the engine and air condition still working – you approach him: “… good afternoon sir. Are you Mr. Deji… ah, sorry for keeping waiting. I am your BOLT driver for this trip… please come inside the car (you open the door while you ensure he is well seated). Children I hope you had a great day in school (You offer them sweets that you should have kept in the car for such pursposes)… sir, your trip begins now…” Then you keep your mouth shut from that point and do not initiate a conversation except the customer speaks to you first or asks a question. If you treat your customers like kings, one day one of them is bound to employ you into his royal palace.
Again, the customer is the boss; you are not. Right from the moment you make the call to initiate the trip, you should be able to speak courteously to him or her on the phone. Explain why you might delay a bit to reach his location; give him a clear understanding of where you are and how much time it will take to reach him; and please use the word “sir” or “ma” profusely. Customers who do not wish to be referred to in that manner will tell you but always be courteous and respectful. If a customer requests you take a route, take it. If you do not think it will be safe to take that path, explain, very courteosly too, why you do not think you should take it. He is most likely bound to understand.
I have mentioned the matter of conversing with the customer in the car but I will wish to elaborate on it here. Understand that not all customers are chatty and not all of them are in a mood to talk. However, I suspect that because human beings are social animals, most people that you pick up will want to initiate a conversation with you. By all means, please, after you are done with the initial welcoming of the customer into the car, do not continue with the conversation. Do not switch on the radio or play a music – except as the customer demands. Then only respond to the customer’s questions or comments; do not try to initiate conversations. Do not even ask him or her how their day was. You may be rousing unpleasant memories and you do not want to receive the butt of their frustrations. The customers who wants to talk will talk to you. Those who wish to be silent and enjoy their own thoughts will do the same. Respect your clients privacies; they own your car space for the duration of that trip.
On a final note, remember that the app system has a system of feedback. Your customers can give your employers any feedback they want on you. By all means pursue getting a positive feedback from your customers. Here is the thing: most people in the world are not narcissistic. Most people do not leave their homes or return to it, with the aim of ruining the career of a BOLT driver. The chances that you will offer excellent services to an individual and they will then go on and write a negative report on you is almost nil. If as a driver, the company gets five negative feedback on you in one week – I will recommend that you will be let go off that employment.
While I gave the yesterday guy a one star and sent in a poor report on him, I gave the person who picked me two days ago a five star and gave him excellent reportage. I could have not written anything on either of them but the manner they related to me in the car, for the less than fifteen minutes we were together, told me a lot about their personalities. The guy who picked me up two days ago was a fresh graduate and he was also a foreigner (from one of the “Guinea” countries). He was a bit too chatty but I appreciated the spirit of honesty in him and the courteousness in his work. The yesterday guy was behaving as if he was doing me a favor driving me home. I suspect that the problem with him is something that is inherently wrong with many people from South-West Nigeria. It has to do with an air of superiority and the attitude of “…I am better than being a mere driver; do not look down on me…” While it is true a lot of people treat public transporters with a lot of disdain, it is wrong to approach everyone with that presupposition. It does not matter the attitude that a customer brings, reciprocate with respect.
This brings me to my final point: I suspect that the best BOLT drivers will not remain in the employment of that company for too long. This is what I mean: It was Pastor Tunde Bakare that told me, many years ago while I was searching for work in Lagos, that “jobs are not scarce, only faithful men are few”. If an individual brings the right spirit into his work and does it well, it does not matter how lowly that job is – he will not remain in that employment for too long. A lot of people are looking for people to do a lot of things for them but the problem is that many people just want to earn money, they do not want to work and add value to a system. The moment somebody discovers that an individual is a value adder, they will receive that person into their employment. BOLT employs the services of graduates from universities because they believe that such persons have been trained in manners and they possess initiative, and that they have the requisite skill to do the job of driving well. Unfortunately the downside of tertiary education in Nigeria is that many graduates cannot even do the mere work of driving well.
Dear BOLT driver, there is a lot more I wish I could tell you but I trust that your experience behind the wheel will teach you the rest. The blessing of life is that if we learn fast from our adversities, we will not remain in that situation for too long. Taxi driving is not exactly a job that one can boast about but if it is done well, it can be a springboard to doing something better and earning a lot more. The ball, like they say, is in your court because a few words is enough for the wise.