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Discriminatory practices and poor customer service



The customer-relationship slogan that says “the customer is always right,” is not being respected as many companies see themselves as doing their clients a favour and not carrying out their duties.

Many Nigerians have complained that customer service by most companies is very poor. “When you meet them to render a service which is your right, they would not attend to you properly,” said Chinyere Nwagbra, an entrepreneur.

There is a general notion that the way customers are treated depends on the size of their pocket; with those who are financially buoyant and ready to tip, receiving better treatment. Aside from treating those who appear rich, better, light skinned foreigners on the other hand are also treated better than the locals.

What could be responsible for this? Why do some Nigerian companies look down on some customers and celebrate foreigners?

Saheed Olawole narrated his ordeal in the hands of DSTV customer service at the Ikeja head office GRA to BusinessHallmark.

“I had a problem with my decoder so I went to lay a complaint. I met the lady at table 15 as I was instructed by the security man at the entrance. As soon as I got to table 15, I smiled at the lady and greeted her. She answered unpleasantly and frowning her face at the same time. She asked me to take my seat.

“About 10 minutes later, a white man walked up to her to make some enquiries. Before the man uttered a word, she had already begun smiling. It was almost like she was lost. She answered him politely. I felt like a second class citizen in my own country” he said.

In a similar vein, Anthony Okpara told this newspaper how he was poorly treated by a customer service representative in one of the banks. “I lost my ATM card and needed a new one. The lady I met gave me a form to fill. I was seated and then a white man walked in. She said I should get up for him to sit. At first I pretended not to have heard. She repeatedly told me to get up and that the man is a big customer. I was mad at her. I shouted at the top of my voice until the security guards and senior bank officials pleaded with me to stop.”

Okpara who sounded angry while telling his story said “It is very bad. If you travel abroad, you will become a second class citizen. Why should we also be second class citizens in our own country?” he queried.

Hospitals are not left out of poor customer service. Mrs. Helen Okpanachi, who had a bitter experience at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital LUTH, told Business Hallmark that her late husband suffered a lot before he gave up the ghost at the hospital.

She said, “At LUTH, you are on your own. They treat patients like trash. When I brought my husband here before he died, they said I would be the one to take care of him. Despite the money we paid, they refused to take proper care of him. He had a problem with his nervous system so he was incapacitated. They said their job is to administer his drugs so they left every other thing to me. They are not friendly at all. I pray I never have anything to do with that place again. The treatment is very bad. They talk to patients like they are there for free.”

She continued, “We were in a private hospital before we were referred to LUTH due to the severity of his ailment. The difference between private hospitals and public ones in terms of care is like light and darkness.”

A doctor, who spoke and pleaded for his name not to be mentioned because he was not authorized to speak said, “One of the reasons for this behavior is that a large number of people come here coupled with the fact that staff are being owed salaries. Aside from attending to so many people, how do you expect the nurses to treat patients with care when they haven’t been paid?

According to a sales and market strategist and business coach, Marie-Therese Phido, unless organisations in Nigeria prioritise a strong customer service culture and put customer first in product as well as service delivery, projected economic growth in the country may remain bleak.

Speaking at a workshop organised by Beta Sigma Fraternity International last year, Phido, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Elevato & Associates complained that poor quality of service by most organizations in the country is bane to growth of businesses across the country.

“Poor customer service can actually kill businesses and we have many businesses that have been killed. We have seen many examples in the airline sector. In the hospitality industry, there are many places people don’t go any more irrespective of how well the place is because of poor customer services. We can also see what is happening in the banking industry in the country,” Phido said.


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