I began my writing in the area of business mentoring and coaching. It’s been a long while since I spoke about business and entrepreneurship. So what better time than now as we celebrate customers. Last week was customer service week. I decided to look up its meaning as it didn’t make much sense to me. Google told me it is an international celebration of the importance of customer service and of the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis. With this definition in mind, I saw a lot of messages in print and on social media from companies appreciating their customers. Doesn’t the above definition talk about celebrating those who serve customers? Bit confused there.
We all have heard countless stories of poor customer service in our country. I dare say that we all have been a victim of terrible customer service at one point or another. Maybe some of us are even enduring it as you read this. I hope I offer some relief hehe. Sadly government offices have led the pack in this for a long time. But to their credit, initiatives like Huduma centres and moving some of their services to the public online has helped a great deal. Sadly though their systems are down frequently. I wonder if that is a result of sabotage by the people in charge of the systems or could it just be teething problems?
I hope it’s the latter but there could be folks who want us to remain analogue for their selfish interests. Anyhow this article is not an appraisal of government performance. Let’s give credit where it’s due. Wamejaribu and there is always a ray of hope that can surprise us. And whenever we come across that then we should shout about it the same way we shout about the bad. That was my experience this week
I encountered two contrasting experiences that surprised me. One was from a private company where we naturally would expect above-average customer service. The second was from the public sector, Nairobi county government offices a.k.a kanjo, where I expected mediocre service at the best.
I have a ka project I’m doing. The phrase ‘ka’ should be added to the Kenyan dictionary as an attempt to describe something as being small. Sometimes it comes out as fake humility. Trying hard to appear like we are not bragging yet we are doing big things. I’m guilty as charged because I use it.
My ka mjengo ( I’ve done it again, hehe) is about to get to the roofing stage. I’ve started shopping for these trendy iron sheets that look like tiles so I’ve called a few companies that sell them. I tried calling one company a few times and couldn’t get through. Soon after I received an automated text asking me to call one of their sales reps. I was surprised because I wondered why they should ask me to call their rep. shouldn’t the rep be the one to call me once they see my missed call? I’m sure these modern switchboards can be configured to do just that.
Anyhow, I did call the lady and she asked me to send her my designs on WhatsApp for her to work out a quote. Again I obliged. After a short exchange on WhatsApp, she told me the information I have shared is not enough and I need to give her more details. Let me mention that two other roofing sheet companies I had contacted earlier had used the same drawings to work out a quote for me. I told that to this sales rep but she was adamant that she can’t proceed unless I provide more details which I didn’t have. I left it there and moved on. Whenever you feel like you’re begging to give someone work, then that’s your cue to take your hard-earned cash elsewhere. Technology is good for business growth but when used poorly or without any human creativity or goodwill then it can easily turn to block the sales a firm desperately needs.
My second experience at city hall was the highlight of my week. Thankfully the county government has issued a waiver for penalties and interests on land rates arrears. I decided to take advantage of it and regularize my status. I started by visiting the rates office at City Hall. I was referred to some staff in white coats seated at the corridors outside. Luckily the queue was short. That was a relief as I expected to line up the whole day. I finally got to speak to this young lady who I found out is a Kenya Revenue Authority officer in the domestic tax department of the County Revenue Division (CRD). Her name was Terry Njuki.
It was refreshing to find a pleasant officer at City Hall who seemed willing to help. She took the documents I heard, sent them to a colleague as I waited for some details. Meanwhile, she offered me a seat as I waited. After some time the information she needed came through and Terry asked if I’d like it sent to me via WhatsApp. Again surprised I said, “of course”. I thanked her and left to go open an account on the Nairobi Metropolitan Services portal. That’s the only way I would generate a bill to pay my rates. This time around I’m not sure if it was me or the system misbehaving but I wasn’t successful.
I decided to call Terry and explain myself. She asked me to send her my ID number and with that managed to create an account for me. At this point, I’m wondering when did we get to this level of efficiency at kanjo. Lt General Mohamed Badi and your team, please keep doing what you’re doing. At this rate, we will start kujivunia and stop kuvumilia kuwa Nairobians.
After my account was all set up thanks to Terry’s intervention, she offered to send me the bills by email. I gave her my email address and a short while later they popped up in my inbox. Only that this time it was the 2021 bill only without the arrears of previous years. I called her, she did her magic and sent me the consolidated bills which I just needed to print and go pay. She said I could go for a receipt once I have paid. She even saved me the trip to town and emailed me the receipts yesterday after seeing my proof of payment. There are still folks who give dignity to public service.
I’m still in awe of the help this county officer offered me yet I was a stranger to her. Terry is the ray of hope that Nairobi needs. She finally gave meaning to the definition of customer service week. I am a customer of the Nairobi County Government but I choose to celebrate Terry and all other government officers who go out of their way to serve the public just because it is their job and not expecting extra rewards.
Folks in Nairobi, if you haven’t paid your land rates, you have up to 31st October to enjoy the waiver. And Terry might just help you.