As a marketing professional, one of the axioms or aphorisms I learnt early in the industry was: “Customer is king.” I believed that it was applicable in Nigeria and, therefore, repeated it in discussions on marketing. Even though I had visited North America and Europe, I didn’t stay long enough to truly see how their countries worked. That affected my view.
However, recently I spent some extended time in North America and experienced first-hand what customer care is. With that experience, it became crystal clear to me that the term “customer is king” should not be uttered in Nigeria, as it is a hollow statement that is in dissonance with the reality. When you compare how the customer in Canada, United States or the United Kingdom is treated with the way the Nigerian customer is treated, then you will conclude that the Nigerian customer is a nobody in real life playing the role of a king in a low-budget film.
For example, one thing that is common in most Western countries is a clear return policy. It is taken for granted that a customer can return any purchased good and get a refund like a real king is treated. There are usually no hidden terms and conditions. The returned good does not even have to be in the same condition of purchase. The customer does not even have to give a reason for returning the product. The only terms and conditions that sometimes exist are that the return has to take place within a certain period like 30 or 60 days.
A customer can buy a pack of powdered coffee, open it, take some out of it and return it to the store of purchase with the excuse of dissatisfaction with the taste. Note that the coffee is not spoiled or expired or adulterated. Note that the coffee pack has been opened and can no longer be resold. Note that there is no empirical way of certifying good or bad taste. But the store will simply give the customer a refund. In Nigeria, as long as that pack has not expired and there is no mould or impurity in it, that opened pack will not be accepted back. If it had not been opened, the customer may be indulged with a replacement at some stores after a long and frustrating process.
University students in Western countries who need suits for graduation ceremony sometimes buy suits, wear them for their event, return them and collect their full refund. Some customers even take things a notch higher by buying a travel bag in a store in Canada, for example, using it to bag their items, travelling to the US with it and then returning it to a branch of that same store in the US and getting their full refund.
Imagine a customer going to a store with a torn pack of chips, saying that her cat tore it open and asking for a replacement? Please process this very well. The customer bought the pack of chips in good condition and went home with it. In her own home, her own cat pounced on the pack of chips and ripped it open. The cat does not belong to the grocery store, neither did a member of the grocery store throw the pack of chips at the cat. One would wonder why a customer should go back to a grocery store with such a case? But the customer knows that she is in a country where she is a true reigning queen, and the store will accept the torn pack of chips and give her a new one.
Switch the countries and place the same customer in Nigeria. In the first place, no Nigerian will take a pack of chips torn open by his or her cat or dog back to where it was bought and demand a replacement. That is completely unimaginable. Any customer who does that will be rebuked or mocked by the store owner. The employees or owner of the store will be outraged that someone is making such a demand.
Western countries have also created laws to protect the customer against any form of deceit in pricing. In Canada, for example, there is what is called the scanning code practice. If a store has a price tag on the shelf which is different from what is on the computer when the customer is about to pay for the product, the customer gets the product free. The code states that the product will be given to the customer free of charge if its price is not above ten dollars. But if it is above ten dollars, the customer will get ten dollars free and pay the difference.
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Similarly, a customer can buy an item from a store and return it because the item is cheaper in another store. The store can decide to match the price of its competitor or refund the customer in full.
Even when the purchase is done online, the same return policy applies. If the product arrives, the customer may open it, use it, feel dissatisfied and send it back, usually within 30 days or 60 days, depending on the terms of return. Another interesting part of the return policy is that the customer will not spend a dime on the return. All the customer needs to do is to put the product back in its box, seal it, stick the address on the pack and keep it for the seller to pick up or drop it off at the nearest post office. Once the seller receives the item, the customer is given a full refund.
As a customer, if you walk into a store and see an employee of the store cleaning the floor or see the store manager moving around, and you ask any of them for the location of a product, the person is not expected to point at the isle or tell you “I don’t know.” The person is expected to take you to the place where the product is. If you have any issue and ask to see the store manager, within two minutes the store manager comes out to meet you.
Currently, Facebook users in the United States have been awarded $725m as the settlement amount for the multiple lawsuits brought against its parent company Meta. Many Facebook users sued the company for improperly sharing their information with third-party sources such as advertisers and data brokers. Facebook chose to settle out of court by agreeing to pay some money to all its subscribers in the US who used the social media app between May 24, 2007 and December 22, 2022. All they need to do is file a monetary claim before Friday, August 25, 2023. In Nigeria, such is unimaginable.
A Nigerian doctor told me that the best patients to have on earth are Nigerians. When a Nigerian patient dies in your hospital or under your care as a doctor, the family will come to thank you as the doctor – sometimes even give you a gift – pay any outstanding bills, take the body away and go prepare for the funeral. As far as they are concerned, it is the way God willed it. If God had not wanted it like that, their relative would not have died.
But in the Western world, if a patient dies under your care as a doctor, you will not be at ease. The family will scrutinise every inch of the care given to their loved one. They may ask for an autopsy. They may even file a complaint. All the drugs and care procedure administered will the investigated. If anything is found to have not been done properly, the doctor may lose his or her licence and may even go to jail, like Michael Jackson’s doctor.
In the Western world, organisations – both private and public – know that the customer is king and accord the customer the full rights of a king. But in Nigeria, the customer is nowhere near such an exalted title and should no longer be deceived with such honorifics, for it is what William Shakespeare describes as being dressed in borrowed robes.
Twitter: @BrandAzuka ,
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