My Experience with Two Technicians in Ibadan
By: Deji Yesufu
After years of blaming government for how things have turned out in Nigeria, in recent times I have begun to look more closely at what we fellow Nigerians are doing to our own country ourselves. There are two things in view here: it is either the Nigerian government has failed so much that it is up to the man on the streets to take his destiny in his hands and makes something of this country’s situation; or, it is the fact that Nigeria is where she is because of what everyone of us have made this country to be. Whichever the case is, the possibility of passing the buck and blaming someone else should reduce significantly as we get on with the matter of nation building. One thing builds countries: productivity.
When a people are productive, they can sell their products to people within the nation and thus ensuring less capital flight off the shores of the country; or, they can sell their products to people outside the shores of this country and thus earning foreign exchange into the country. Thereby bringing much needed capital in our labor market and making for a more buoyant economy. This is the worldview with which I engage artisans and business people on the streets of Ibadan but a recent experience with two technicians begun make me doubt whether we are really ready to fix this country of ours.
Our dear old washing machine finally begun to give us signs that it needed a change. After using it for close to six years, I was convinced that there were some parts in it that needed to be changed. But as long as it worked (and we used the poor thing every day) we never bothered fixing her. This day, it stopped working. I made enquiries on Facebook about automatic washing machine technicians in Ibadan. Friends gave the contact of two persons. One of them was quite close by and so I opted for him. We loaded up the machine into my car and I headed out to Yemetu, a sleepy area of the city of Ibadan. I had called the gentleman on the phone and he said he was in the office and waiting. His response on the phone did not make him out to be someone who was enthusiastic about his work but I thought maybe it was the usual network issues; so I ignored the early warning signs.
I got to Mr. A’s workshop, parked the car and approached his office. I could tell that he was around but I overheard him instruct his assistant, a very young boy, to go and attend to me. I was miffed but tried to control myself and not come to an early conclusion on him. The boy tells me I have to register my machine before his oga can even come and talk to me. “How much is for registration?” I asked. “N500”, I was told. I handed him the money. Oga was still inside waiting. After he was given the money, he came out to meet me. I made it clear to him straight away that no one does business the manner he is doing his. You were the one I was talking with on the phone, not your boy. Courtesy demands that you at least meet me first the moment I arrived. He made a lame excuse about the fact that this is one reason he has boys working for him so he does not have to overwork himself. Fine, let us get to business. I explained the trouble with my equipment. Straight away, almost without looking at the machine, he said it must a faulty equipment that will require N10,000 to fix. Along, with workmanship, my bill will be N18,000 and there was no room for negotiation. I made a down payment of N10k and stated that I will balance up the moment the equipment is working.
The following day he calls and explains that he has replaced the faulty part but that the machine was not coming on. I suspected the power in his shop was poor, so I took the machine home and got it on. But I was unable to program the equipment to wash the cloths. One button we normally use to power it had gone bad. I called Mr. A and explained that this button was working before we came to his shop. He said there was no way for him to know this since he did not test every part of the machine the moment we dropped it. The matter then degenerated to an argument and I had to call the friend who referred me to him to explain things. I told him that since he has not been able to fix my machine, he will have to forfeit his balance. He appeared glad to have me off his neck; he had remarked in our exchange that I was a difficult customer. I still cannot put my hand on how “a customer is always right” suddenly became “a difficult customer”. I concluded that since I had a second option; I had better use it.
I headed to Ologunerun, Ibadan, to see the second technician this last Saturday. Even from the moment of calling him, I had already like him. His voice was assuring and he promised to attend to me the moment I arrived. When I got to him, the first thing he did was to get his screwdrivers out and go straight to the source of the problem. He explained to me that the board of the equipment was bad and will require replacement. He stated that getting a new one will not be difficult as the manufactures have a sales points for parts in Lagos. I then explained my experience with Mr. A. Apparently Mr. B knows Mr. A. In fact B had worked under A and had had to leave him to start off his own office because A was quite a difficult person.
He then assured me that the machine will be fixed. The interesting thing about A and B was this: while A had said I will need 20k to fix the board of that machine, B told me I will need 40k to fix the same machine. I then turned to B and everyone who was there and said to them that I would rather have B fix my equipment than A because of the warm customer relations that was exhuming from him. We eventually settled for 35k for the work and I told him that I had no qualms paying him for the job.
It was Yemi Taiwo Alabi who remarked on Facebook about the dwindling customer service in a popular Ibadan Event Centre at the Ring Road area of Ibadan. I commented saying that one of the horrible thing about successful business in South West Nigeria is that such businesses soon loose thier zeal to keep customers or treat them well. This was the problem of Mr. A. As a foremost washing machine technician in this city, he had developed a large customer base and saw very little reason to treat new customers with respect. Unfortunately, this is not the case with our brothers from Eastern Nigeria: an Igbo man will do everything to squeeze out a profit from you even it is just a little hundreds of naira. Sometimes they even sell at a loss just to make or keep a customer.
Customer care is the heart beat of a business. You get it wrong at that point and your business begins to nose dive. Those banks that put young, pretty and hardworking young ladies in their reception hall do it to attract and keep customers. Most customers are likely to give attention to a pretty lady talking to them than to an old haggard guy; and since it is men that do business the most, these ladies bring the men and the money to the bank.
My encounter with these two technicians has further made me realize that an inherent problem in business and productivity in our clime is the inability of many product sellers to properly market their products. Those who say that “customer is always right” make that point because they know that the moment a customer commits resources to a business, what they may have done to achieve this is worth the effort; even if it includes bootlicking.
One other trouble with our clime is the security of a job that many pursue. We do not realize that the best a job can give us is a regular but fixed income. Businesses, on the other hand, will not give you a regular and fixed income; instead, if business is done well, you can actually begin to have an ever increasing income – which will come regularly also. I need to make the point that Mr. A did not only offer me poor customer service, he also did not do my job well. The faulty part he replaced, for which I paid him 10k, was not the right one. I will be needing to change that part also with Mr. B.
The bigger tragedy with those who lack customer care services is that they also lack the requisite skill to do a good job and that is sad indeed. Hopefully Nigerians will blame government less for the state of the nation and begin to look inward at what every one of us is contributing to national development.