During one of my recent trips to Nigeria, I went to the NEPA office to buy credit for my mom’s meter.
Brief History: NEPA (The National Electric Power Authority also known as Never Expect Power Always) switched their payment system. Previously, power bills were generated after “technicians” went door to door to read meters to identify the amount of power you utilized in a month. Now, it’s a pay-as-you-go system whereby customers purchase meter-credit and you have power (when there isn’t outage) until your credit runs out.
Okay so, I went down to the office at Okpara Avenue, Enugu with a family friend, Izu. When we got there, there was just one person ahead of us. A few minutes later, the lady at the counter finished with the person so we were up next. I promise you I am not making any part of this story up:
The chick took out her phone and started texting. I looked at Izu like is she serious? Izu walked up to the counter and greeted her,”My sister Good Evening.” Without looking up from her phone she responded “EHE, WHAT DO YOU WANT?” Izu, still calm replied, “Credit, 5k”. She brought out it, slammed it on the counter and collected the money. He took it and we turned to leave.
“Aunty not for nothing, but you can like to smile.”
Yes, yours truly said that out loud to Ms. Bitterness. I know we got what we came for and I could have just walked out. BUT I felt it was my civic duty to tell her about herself.
She sucked her teeth at me.
“And when people are talking to you, especially customers, you get up, look them in the face and cater to them. That’s your job.”At this point, I was irritated by her demeanor.
Izu pulled me out of there.
In the car he reminded me that I was not in New York, “workers act anyhow here” he said.
When I asked him why, his replied:
“Well it’s not her business and she’s not working on commission. She works for the government. They may not be paying her. She may be having problems at home or seeing her menses – you know how you women are”
Later that evening, we went out for drinks and I told his friends about the NEPA fiasco. They said what I experienced that was “standard” and that I only noticed because I’m too “oyibo” (White/Americanized). They went on to tell me about their different experiences which mine seem elementary.
I came up with the bright idea to report her to her manager. Everyone there (including people in other tables) LAUGHED THEIR A****S OFF at me. Izu told me that won’t change anything, “they won’t reprimand her”. Someone else said, it cause more harm than good. “They won’t give you light for one year oo, better keep quiet and go back!”
As instructed, I carried my wahala back to New York.
Being who I am, I started researching Customer Service and implementation strategies. Eventually, I combined the resources I found with personal experiences and I created a Customer Service Manual in the hopes to one day, train multiple personnel in NIGERIA on the importance of Customer Service and ways to improve and enforce it.
To my dear aunty at the NEPA office that day: thank you so much for that unforgettable encounter! You piqued my interest on the subject matter. In due time, I will write a book, facilitate trainings and give talks on Customer Service all over the world and it’s all because of you 🙂
Thank you for reading!