Every business, large or small, makes conscious, sometimes spirited, attempts to project it as the sprocket that enables its rotation and if you like, forward thrust. Either seriously or pretentiously, businesses appear to have developed the habit of leveraging the customer as the raison d’etre for their existence. The customer-service race as a business philosophy has continued to gain currency since 1909 when Harry Gordon Selfridge first used the statement t evolve a differentiating proposition for his retail stores business and today has become almost a compulsory accompaniment of every entrepreneurial drive, from the small street-corner stores to hospitals and big manufacturing and service organisations.
“Our customers are the reasons we are in business.”
“We cannot be where we are without our customers.”
“Our customers are our greatest assets.”
“Customer is king”
They are phrased in different ways, but they point to the same posturing. The problem arises when these businesses face the challenge of fulfilling this commitment beyond what they put out in manuals and media kits. As has often been the case, with our banks, telecom companies, FMCGs, and retail businesses, the short end of the stick have always been stuck out to the customer. True customer service could be expensive and time-consuming and a business that had completed its exchange of value, for instance, finds it odd and hard to commit resources and time to attend to their customer who returned with a complaint or other forms of problems.
I have heard, read, and seen a lot of my friends as well as those in my social media circles, complain about the wretched customer service experience with banks telcos, and sundry businesses. My experience with Remita offers something different, fresh, refreshing, and reassuring
Most times when I have issues with brands and businesses in Nigeria, I usually have the urge to move on without seeking redress, because almost always, you don’t get justice. For me, if Customer Service were human, I was almost sure he or she wasn’t a Nigerian.
But SytemSpecs, promoters of the Remita payment service had me have a bit of a change of heart. I have used the Remita platform only a few times. A couple of times since 2019, I have had to use it while paying for the IISBN for my books. Prior to that, Remita was to me, just another business in the IT/payments space. Although a couple of my friends, at one point, were Public Relations consultants to the company and we talked about the business a lot during the controversial transition period of the Nigerian government into the Treasury Single Account system of collecting government revenue, I didn’t have a relationship with the company and thus did not consider them as one where the story of my experience has to be so compellingly satisfactory, I had to take time to tell it.
The issue that took me to Remita started sometime in January 2022, when my wife, who had purchased a Master’s degree form asked me to pay for her transcript to the University of Nigeria (UNN). I made the payment, as all good husbands would, and forgot about it. But I happened that midway into processing the transcript, the perennial ASUU-NASU-SSANU strike actions paralysed academic activities. However, at the University of Lagos, where she intends to pursue her postgraduate programme, admission processes were going on. Without her transcript, her dream of advancing her education would not be possible. To prove she had actually made payment for a transcript, madam was asked to provide proof of payment, and all my efforts to trace it through my emails, debit alerts, and other possible ways proved impossible.
So, I went online and sought out Remita and in no time, I was on their customer support email, firstname.lastname@example.org, pouring my problems. Even while doing this, I haboured the typical Nigerian mindset and was almost sure Remita was not going to solve my problem. I thought they had no reason to. First, they were not indeb ted to me. Secondly, my transaction had long been completed successfully. But I sent the message all the same.
Soon as I sent the email, I received an automated response informing me that my inquiry had been received and that the issue was going to be resolved within two hours. I literally sniggered and began immediately to think of another means of solving my problem. But to my surprise, I received another email within 30 minutes from Remita, listing a number of bits of information I should provide to enable them solve the issue.
One of the things I was asked to provide was the date I made the payment. In this world of tons of activities each insufficient day, how would Remita think I was going to remember the exact date I made a payment? At this point, I concluded that Remita was making the request as an excuse to not solve my problem.
I was however encouraged by this response and how quick it came. So, I provided all the other bits of information, except the date of the transaction. In another 20 minutes, Remita replied again, asking for the same information. This time, they provided the email ID of a member of staff, as well as a phone number, at the end of the mail. This told me that Remita understood that I needed a human interface to solve the problem.
In responding to this email, I then copied the person whose email was added to the earlier mail and made it clear that I was unable to remember the date I had made the payment. In order to narrow their search, I informed them that there were (still are) perhaps only three adults in the world that bear OKUHU as surname, and they include; my humble self, my wife, and my younger brother and that searching their system using that surname was going to be useful.
Remita did not respond to me until about another one hour and when they did, the ticket for that transaction, complete with the reference numbers, was sent to my email!
I was both relieved and shocked at the same time. Relieved because a problem had been solved, and shocked because, for a change, I have encountered a Nigerian business that demonstrated the touted customer service mantra, even when it was not immediately profitable to do so. More importantly, the issue I wanted to resolve did not have anything to do with Remita, the loss of the transaction receipt was my fault. I, therefore, saw the efforts the company made to provide relief for me as that much-touted “extra mile” which many align with during speaking engagements, but which no one really bothers about when it comes to real relationship management.
Remita really left an impression. Over the past few weeks, I have heard, read, and seen a lot of my friends as well as those in my social media circles, complain about the wretched customer service experience with banks telcos, and sundry businesses. My experience with Remita offers something different, fresh, refreshing, and reassuring and if I do not talk about it, I wonder what I will.