Speak Up: Demanding Service in Nigeria!

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Consulting comes with its own rewards beyond the immediate paycheck — and that often includes the opportunity of exposure to new places. I should be very excited that I eventually visited Benue State, for the first time, as part of my Abuja-Jos-Makurdi-Abuja work-related travel over the weekend but that excitement contests with a huge concern. I have had the opportunity of staying in numerous hotels in various parts of Nigeria and other places, and express my present concern with the hope that we can change our stance on the state of the service industry in most parts of Nigeria: rather than accept things as they are and opting for the more expensive options (that also falter on key expectations), we should demand for change — which will benefit the sector and nation at large.

Beginning with Abuja, in a hotel patronised by many corporate organisations, I came face to face with the most-often-permitted rot in our hospitality industry. First, it was the story of how the electronic door’s battery was low and the receptionist (in consultation with other staff) offered me what she considered a most brilliant alternative — the door would be opened with the hotel’s master key but I would be locked in and would only have access to my room with the assistance of the custodian of the master key. This was almost 1am, no thanks to Virgin Nigeria’s 3-hour delay (can someone join voice with mine and please tell the airline that the first thing that comes to mind when its name is mentioned is delay), and just imagine if I needed to exit or return to my room during an emergency! I shouldn’t bore you with the story of the shower, and how a colleague had to shower in another room after having paid so much!

Next was Jos. Considering the nature of our work (endless meetings) and the need for a decent hotel, we asked for the best. And the best we got. At least the name of the owner and the plaque hanging at the reception confirmed my friend’s recommendation of the best hotel in town. Yet, the service denial virus struck again: I was sent on a wild goose chase to the detached business centre only to meet the door locked. The young man (“IT specialist”) who manned the centre had closed shop for the day! At about 3pm! No wonder we claim there are no jobs for young people — when those who have them are always on siesta. Let me skip the embarrassing details of outright lies about consistent power supply and internet access in Makurdi…

The importance of this blog is to call our attention to a need we all recognize but often take no step to address. We are often quick to look at people who demand for quality service and label them as sophisticated but the service industry is doing our national image more harm than good. I have had to bury my head in my hands many times when a foreign colleague comes to execute a project with me in Nigeria because of the many encounters we have with hospitality industry employees, including the unspoken words, “I am doing you a favour, please don’t stress me!” I honestly think that Nigerians should start demanding for what we pay for — including the demand for electricity each time PHCN comes to drop of the bill for the previous month during which you had to use the generator for about 23 hours 47 minutes and 16 seconds every day. Speak Up! Please remember that evil (or incompetence) thrives when good (efficient service) is silent… please speak up.

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