• Benchmarks customer service, technology and punctuality

By EMEKA EJERE

As competition in the interstate transportation business in Nigeria becomes stiffer with new operators springing up by the day, one player whose patronage has maintained an upward trajectory is God Is Good Motors.

Two factors account for this. The company combines cutting edge technological innovations with uncommon customer service practices, BH findings have shown. The road transport giant is a subsidiary of the GIG Group, a technology and intelligence driven Management company, which invests majorly in technology-focused companies.

Among the Group’s most visible subsidiaries are God Is Good Motors (also known as GIGM) — a leading intercity passenger transportation company — and GIG Logistics (GIGL), a fast-rising inter-city express delivery service. Both are separately run entities, independent of each other.

Back in 1997, interstate transport in Nigeria was almost totally done with luxurious buses. People used these huge 59-seater vehicles to move goods, visit their hometowns and go on cross-country trips.

Then Mr. Edwin Ajaere, a spare parts dealer, incorporated God Is Good Motors and launched the first medium-size bus transport fleet in Nigeria one year later in 1998 in Benin City, Edo State. At the time, the leading road transport companies – ABC, Chisco and Young Shall Grow – all had a combination of luxury buses, for longer distance journeys, and medium-sized buses for shorter journeys.

GIGM was the first to use 14-seater buses for all trips. The company would grow to become Nigeria’s most technologically advanced road transport company with the first top-down transport management system in the country, a 600-bus fleet and over 2000 employees.

A new chapter

In 2009, Ajaere was kidnapped and subsequently killed. His first son, Chidi Ajaere, just 21 at the time, had to return to Nigeria from Canada, where he was studying at Niagara College, to take over the business. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in GIGM’s journey to becoming one of Nigeria’s biggest road transport companies.

Chidi inherited a GIGM that had 120 staff members and owned a fleet of about 90 buses. Beyond obvious moves like increasing the fleet size and routes plied, Chidi was convinced that technology-driven innovation was the way to go.

Anticipating resistance to his vision, the first move Chidi made was to ‘disrupt’ the mindset of his team. After seemingly inconsequential but very crucial, nomenclature redefinitions, bus parks became terminals and drivers began to be addressed as captains.

There were also more visible changes like replacing the casual dressing culture of t-shirts, shorts and bathroom slippers with uniforms for captains and suits and ties for managers, all in a deliberate effort towards an inside-out paradigm shift.

The next step involved training existing staff to become tech-savvy and recruiting similarly or better-skilled people to join the team. Then the process of integrating technology into their ticketing system and other core operations began.

“In the old days, we ran everything by force, energy and hope”, recalls Banjo Akala, a pioneer member of the Intelligence Control Unit (ICU), recalled. “But hope is not a strategy, which is why we brought intelligence into how we ran the business”.

Since mid-2017, the ICU has utilised an in-house software solution, aptly called GIG Mobility, which has essentially become the nucleus of all operations at GIGM.

“All you see at the terminals are just the physical results of what has already been pre-planned by the guys in ICU,” Banjo pointed out.

The customer, the king

While the company was undergoing internal self-disruption in the early days, the customer-facing side of things also improved. First, terminals got upgraded to feature state-of-the-art functionality. Among the most visible of these upgrades is the ultra-modern bus terminal in Jibowu, Lagos.

A visit to the terminal reveals that it is complete with well-labeled platforms and other customer-focused features, including provisions for customers to walk in and book tickets with little or no human intervention.

In 2015, a new website was launched to allow passengers book tickets and reserve a preferred seating position online. Taking things a step further, a mobile app was launched (for both Android and iOS) in 2016 to not only enable booking of tickets on the go, but also to power new features aimed at customer comfort.

Because every facet of the business (including the mobile app which is apparently now responsible for over 80% of all online bookings) is integrated with GIG Mobility, the ICU can tell how many intending passengers are booked for certain scheduled routes and advise on supply and demand dynamics.

“In those days, we would have to wait until the next day before we realised which terminals had excess vehicles and which didn’t have enough,” recalls a member of the operations team.

“But with this system, we are able to redistribute efficiently ahead of next day operations”.

So as long as they arrive at terminals no later than 30 minutes before departure, or at designated pick-up points on time, passengers are now assured of not having to waste precious man hour waiting. .

“Being at the mercy of Nigerian roads, one can only do so much towards ensuring passenger satisfaction, safety, and comfort. However, I am told that GIG Mobility not only enables the operations team monitor and caution over-speeding drivers, they can also control vehicle speed remotely”, an observer noted.

Business Hallmark also learnt that in the undesirable event that a vehicle breaks down, being inactive over a certain threshold period the ICU is alerted. With patrol vehicles strategically positioned along major routes, the GIG Rapid Response Unit can then be deployed to address the situation.

A manifest can then be generated by the GIG call centre so that agents immediately begin pacifying passengers while the company arranges entertainment, a trans-load, temporary accommodation and even refunds where necessary.

Some of the GIGM regular passengers speak on why the carrier remains their favourite.

Mrs. Ebere Iwuchukwu, said the transporter has succeeded in killing the African= time syndrome. “Their time is their time. Even if it’s only two or three passengers that are around, once it is takeoff time, the bus zooms off”, she said.

“Passengers who miss their bus on account of late arrival to the terminal aremade to pay extra in order to board another bus .“

Another customer, Benson Eneworo, notes, “God Is Good Motors does not over-speed. Their drivers are well trained and disciplined.”

“Once I want to travel by road, I go for God Is Good because you see a level of decency that makes you feel as though you’re dealing with an airline”, said Mr. Patrick James.

Victor Anyanwu, an undergraduate, is also satisfied with the services of GIGM. He, however, cautioned that the company should also be mindful of the fact that “some of their ultramodern terminals are begging for facelift.”