Economist and Customer Service Expert, Dr. Garzali Mohammed tells TheFact Nigeria that he specialised in Customer Satisfaction because he believes the customer’s satisfaction was key to a booming economy; reason he’s nurturing his four young children to become good Service Delivery Ambassadors. He says, Nigeria’s SERVICOM must proactively engage the public on obtaining good service both within the public and private sectors of the economy. Excerpts:
What steps did you take to prepare you for a bright future?
I was born and brought up in kano. I am an Economist. I studied economics from first degree to third degree. I studied economics first degree at Bayero University, Kano. I acquired a Masters in Development Studies, in Bayero University, Kano. I got another Masters from ESUT Business School, Enugu. I got my PhD from Malaysia and Sudan, a collaborated programme. I started my career with Guaranty Trust Bank, (GTB), that was in 2006. I spent five to six years with GT Bank. I started lecturing for about six months. Thereafter, I moved to the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN). From Central Bank, I’ve been with the Development Department where the intervention of the Central Bank is being handled and then processed. From Central Bank, I have been seconded to NIRSAL Microfinance Bank to work with the Managing Director of NIRSAL Microfinance Bank. I have attended a lot of courses. I like research, I like customer satisfaction. I did a lot of courses in ensuring the customer gets the best because my belief is the customer pays your salary so you have to do all what you need to do to satisfy them. So I did a lot of research around customer, financial sector, microfinancing and development economics. I have published a lot of journals both local and international, and I am looking forward to writing a book on Customer Service Charter. I have the concept already. In the very near future I will start working on the book that will address some key issues on the customer and service delivery. I have four kids and I am married.
Looking at the business environment in Nigeria, do you think that consumer satisfaction is paramount to service providers?
For me, I have had the two aspects of customer satisfaction. You meet some institutions or organisations that will meet your own satisfaction. Some, the other way round because my belief is that customer satisfaction is in the person rendering the service. However, one can actually improve upon. If you really want to get the best from the person you are serving, if you satisfy a customer, you can get a referral from that person. If you are very diligent enough, you don’t have to look for a customer. If you serve one well, naturally he will bring another person who will come and then patronize you. Some are doing excellently well in terms of customer satisfaction, some are not. It depends on the environment within which you find yourself. In most cases, financial institutions are doing well, because it is a competitive environment, everybody wants to excel in their cycle. So if you’re not doing well, you’ll be left out from the cycle. Its something that financial institutions need to work harder on.
Beyond the financial institutions, which scenario is obtainable in the other sectors?
Well if you look at other institutions where the competition is less, people are not too keen about satisfying the customer, because whether you come or not, they will still get what they want. Let me give you a situation of maybe, a monopolistic market. This is where you are the driver of the market, you dictate the price. So those kinds of categories of people don’t really look at addressing the need of the customer. Rather, they are looking at what they earn at the end of the day because they might be the only sole provider of the service. So whether you get what you want or not, at the end, they will still get what they want. Its actually relative. Some institutions or some other environment is a bit not as competitive as the financial environment so getting better services in that kind of environment is a bit not assured. However, there are still some exceptions in those environments. You see, even though the environment is not so competitive, you’ll see some people, because the thing is already built in them, they tend to go the extra mile to do more.
With the increasing difficulty in finding decent accomodations, how can the consumer demand value for money from the services in the housing sub-sector?
In the housing sub-sector, because there is quite demand for rented apartments. Its not that the houses are not much but the increased population in the country is quite enormous so even if you have 10 million houses, people will still look for houses. The fact is, people have a personal interest to stay in a particular location. Assuming, Maitama or Asokoro, because you want to stay in that Maitama, so people tend to hike their price because whether you like it or not, as a tenant, you must pay. Why? Because you like that location. Because of that personal interest in that location, the landlord may decide to behave in his own favour by increasing the price, not providing what needs to be provided in those houses, just by virtue of the location of the house. I think that is also of concern. Apart from these also, the price. Maybe in summary, look at the factors affecting demand, maybe because of the unavailability of close substitute. Lets assume you work in Central Bank; if you look at also, taste and fashion, price of the houses in those locations, then unavailability of close substitute. What I mean by that is, if you are a CBN staff, your life pattern will be aligned to your peers or colleagues in CBN. Assuming you’re posted to Abuja, then your interest will be to identify yourself in terms of location with your colleagues, maybe in Maitama or Asokoro. So if there is no other location better than Maitama or Asokoro, you’ll definitely look for a Maitama house no matter how costly that house will be in that location. That’s what is called unavailability of close substitute. Taste and fashion, price and a lot of factors.
What should be the attitude of the consumer who seeks service in the various other sectors of the economy?
The attitude of the Consumer who seek services from different sectors varies. The expectations will be different due to the fact that their services differ. Even though you see some consumers trying to match the expectations between two or more sectors in terms of satisfying their needs. In essence, consumers allocate their resources that would give them maximum satisfaction. Therefore, consumer behaviour is best understood and explained in three different ways: Consumer preferences, budget constraints and consumer choice. Different sectors provide different satisfaction to consumers.
What prompted your keen interest in this particular area of economics, Customer Service?
There’s what you call demand in economics. Demand is the ability of a consumer to get what you want within a given period of time. Demand is absolute or when the customer or the beneficiary gets value for his needs. I took this as a passion. I took this as a part of me. A customer is not absolutely satisfied until when he gets absolute satisfaction from what he desires. We call it utility of the consumer. Whatever we do, we do it towards satisfying human beings and human being is one of the key elements in economics. Economics is the study of human being and his environment. What is the relationship between human being and his environment? Actually, satisfaction is in-between. The environment is trying to provide services to the human being. What the human being will derive from the environment is satisfaction. So it means satisfaction is the link. What that satisfaction means is customer service. So if you look at the whole concept of economics, its centred around satisfaction. So whatever you do, even if you are not an economist, when you do it, as a person, you’re doing it towards addressing a particular interest. The end of that interest is customer satisfaction. Whatever we do, we do it towards satisfying a particular need by providing satisfaction. Even if it is social service, its still provision of utilities which is satisfaction. All we do, we do it in order to satisfy our needs.
What should be the character of a good service provider?
If you look at my career, even when I was with GT Bank, even though I wasn’t in the customer service but I was in marketing, I had that fortune of having a large chunk of customers because of the services I was rendering to them. I was practically doing all the things that the customer needed to do. I was apparently doing the marketing, using my car to bring them from where they were to the bank, get their accounts opened for them, get their account number and send their account numbers to their phones, call them to find out whether they’d received their account details and when their ATM cards were ready, I’d call them to come pick them up. To CBN, fortunately I found myself in the department where we were having direct interactions with the general public. What we do in the development finance department is actually assisting farmers to grow their businesses. How do you grow their business, by providing excellent customer service to them by ensuring deposit money banks provide best service to them. It has been in me, right from my career. Anywhere I go, I tend to satisfy the customer’s need first, more than any other thing.
How does your expertise translate into good service delivery in your current employment?
We do a lot of sensitization to educate people about what they need to know especially around products and services that financial institutions render. We’re doing a lot to educate people about their right and responsibility. On a personal ground, I am a Financial Education expert so I do a lot of talking, presentations, talking to people on how where and how to channel their complaints because a lot of people do not know, if they have any financial service complaints, where they will channel it. I do a lot of engagement with the public, gathering to tell them more about what they need to do to channel their complaints so as to ensure effective service delivery. Some institutions, if they don’t know your complaint, they won’t be able to serve you better. So people need to speak out, to tell the institutions, these are my rights, these are what I think need to be serviced by you. If the institution doesn’t know your complaint, they won’t be able to serve you better. There’s a need for people to know, to understand their rights and responsibility. They need to differentiate their demarcations. They need to know where to cross and where not to cross in terms of boundaries. Am sure a lot of financial institutions are doing the same, to educate people concerning their rights and responsibilities.
Is the federal government’s SERVICOM serving its purpose?
Its still very effective but the only problem is awareness. People are not even aware that SERVCOM can actually help them to better their services. The concern is for SERVICOM to be going round the offices, to ensure effective implementation of the charter. You know they have agreement with all the agencies for them to effectively implement and for them to monitor the service delivery of all the parastatals. But unfortunately, a lot of customers are not aware that they can present their complaints to SERVICOM if they have any. It will be good for SERVICOM to be engaging the general public with a view to create awareness. So if you have any service failure, these are the channels through which you can present your issues. These are the things that SERVICOM need to work hard on. I noticed its not all the offices that display the SERVICOM box. They need to monitor the imolementation to ensure people get the value of what they are paying for, whether public or private. Even though people are not paying for the public but its their own responsibility to ensure public institutions deliver the best service to the general public.
Where do you see yourself in the next decade for instance?
To be honest, I see myself in a bigger position trying to promote service excellence, service delivery. I just want to have the opportunity to ensure delivery of effective services, be it private or public. I wish I can be the President of Nigeria. I will make sure that everybody performs their duty in terms of service delivery. Even if am not the President, let me be in the position to ensure the implementation of the Service Delivery Charter. I see myself in a position where I can push for excellent service delivery, a position to authorise effective service delivery; be it in the public or private sector. In the next five years, I am also looking forward to having my Service Delivery book published, for people to look at and learn from it and work on it then improve on their activities. On a personal note, I will like to see myself nurturing my children to be good Service Ambassadors. I will start training my kids to be excellent service experts, be it in their own matrimonial homes, personal lives and careers. Let there be service delivery in all aspects of their lives. I also see myself as a goal getter.