When BAD Customer Service is GOOD

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Twas lunch time at eloPhotos Academy on Saturday April 28, 2012. I asked my colleague to help get lunch at Mr Biggs (Lateef Jakande Rd, Agidingbi) for the students in the class. She returned 30 minutes later with a few packs of lunch one of which was gotten at Chicken Inn.

The pack from Chicken Inn belonged to the youngest student in the class, my almost-four-year-old daughter. I couldn’t join her until about 1 hour after she started eating. She was almost through with the chicken breast when I reached out to grab a portion of the burnt offering. To my surprise, the chicken had a stench smell as if it was 5days old and rotten.

I was angry especially because 80% of the chicken had already by devoured by the youngest student in the class. Is it possible that the “great” Mr Biggs outlet sell rotten chicken to hungry customers. I was bent on bringing this to their attention.

Within 15mins, I was at the Mr Biggs outlet. I went along with a lawyer-photographer friend whose first question to me was whether I wanted to sue them. I replied that I probably don’t have the energy for a suit but I’m sure the issue can be resolved amicably.

I approached the Chicken Inn attendant who had sold the meal and asked to see his supervisor. He asked what the problem was and I did not hesitate to let him know. I was surprised when he put up a defensive demeanor. He insinuated that I was wrongfully accusing them of wrong-doing since he had been selling the same “similar” chicken to customers all day long. I insisted that I needed to see the Supervisor.

Mr Tayo, the Supervisor arrived and I explained the saga once again. He looked at the piece of chicken and reached out for a fork to raise the chicken to his nostrils for some sensory tests. He asked for the receipt and I explained that none was given. The attendant however was able to fish out the receipt from the trash can where he had dropped it and we were able to confirm that we actually bought the meal there.

The Supervisor’s next response would surprise me once again. He said the chicken smelt bad perhaps because of the length of time that had elapse between when it was bought and when we were “returning” the merchandise. I was shocked. I never new fried chicken can get rotten 1 hour after you buy it from a Mr Biggs outlet. A scientific discovery that perhaps explains all the farting that emanated from my being in time past after a meal of fried chicken at Mr Biggs.

I asked him to listen to himself talk. How can fried chicken rot within 1-2 hours. Maybe the chicken had collapse from the side-effects of the removal of oil subsidy and the eatery did not quickly prepare it in due time. Only God knows. He looked at me as if I was bent on defrauding them by lying that they sold me rotten chicken.

He asked me what I wanted and I told him I would appreciate a refund of my money (something I would have been surprised at if they effected) or a replacement of the rotten offering. He stressed that since I was a previous customer of Mr Biggs I should know better that they would not willingly sell me rotten chicken. After staring at the remains of the chicken for about 7 seconds, he ordered that my “rotten” chicken be replaced with a fresh one.

I wasn’t satisfied with the way he handled it because of the way he was defending his staff and his “organization”. I guess according to him, this customer is wrong. I left the eatery with a vow not to buy from that branch again. My only regret was that I did not “smell” the replacement in their presence before leaving.

They looked at me as if I was a “troublemaker” and I left there thinking of how BAD customer service has been the norm in many organizations in Nigeria. Was it a bad thing for me to ask for my money back.

So what GOOD can come out of such an experience, I asked myself? Well, I realized that perhaps I should consider other options for eating. The food wasn’t healthy anyway even if it wasn’t rotten. Maybe I should consider getting a cook. Maybe I should…… The longer I thought, the more I realized there were “good & better” options to eating food that isn’t gotten from this branch of Mr Biggs or any other branch.

If a management of Mr Biggs happens to be reading this, please kindly do something to address this issue. Or at least “attempt” to do something. A suggestion would be to install “smelling” machines (or humans) that would be responsible for the final “smelling” of foods & snacks before they’re handed to customers. Just thinking aloud. At least that will significantly reduce your chances of being sued by a customer in the future.

And if you’re a fan of Mr Biggs (of any branch), it might be wise for you to smell your meal before leaving the eatery. You could be saving a life by so doing.

Fast forward to April 30th. As if the initial customer service experience wasn’t traumatic enough, I would be facing more terrible customer service MOUNTAINS. My Canon Pixma Pro 9000 printer just got faulty and I needed to do a couple of prints for a few clients. So I decided to do the very thing I dread doing with our jobs: visit a print lab.

I asked my colleague (another one this time around so u don’t start thinking that I have colleagues with BAD LUCK) to take a few of the jobs to a print lab (I had previously recommended to others) in Surulere, 5d Imagery. The total bill was supposed to be N4400 but due to the fact that the lady taking the order was engrossed in an “important” discussion, we were charged for an extra print we did not order for. At that junction, it definitely was my colleague’s fault for not checking the bill properly before paying the cashier N7250 that was asked for.

Upon realizing the mistake a few minutes later, my colleague brought it to the attention of the staff who made the mistake. She admitted that it was her mistake but insisted that the extra N2850 can not be refunded. She said that she can only give a credit on the account worth N2850 whenever he comes back to print more pictures. I was surprised. Very surprised. Isn’t that another definition of robbery. Why can’t they refund money that was “mistakenly” billed to a client. This was (and still is) a mystery.

It was 9pm when my colleague got back to the office and narrated the whole ordeal to me. Maybe I should attend “anger management” classes because as you would have guessed by now, my anger was aroused once again. I called the MD of 5D and explained to him what happened and he apologized and emphasized that my money was not lost and would be refunded. This post would probably have been totally unnecessary if the staff of 3 ladies had the same heart the MD depicted on the phone.

May 1st was quick to arrive. I asked my colleague to go back to the Surulere office and get back my hard-earned money. I wonder why he even came back to the office without seizing one of their equipment in the first place. I guess some people are more gentlemanly than others. May God help me.

I was surprised when he called me at their office to tell me that they were refusing to give him the refund. Even other photographers present were angry at him for making “much ado about nothing”. Maybe their uncle is Lamido Sanusi and they get their money easy but not so with me.

I asked to speak with the person that was “refusing” to refund. A lady by the name Nkechi came on the line. I asked her why she was putting us through all this trouble just because of a financial mistake that was theirs. She said that it is against their policy to issue a refund. I was shocked: AGAINST YOUR POLICY EVEN IF THE MISTAKE WAS YOURS? I told her that I had spoken to their MD and that she should call her Boss and confirm. She said her MD’s line wasn’t going through and that she’ll have to wait for him to call before she issues the refund.

I asked her why she can’t pay with her personal money and collect the refund from the Boss later and she said that she can’t do that because “THIS IS AN ORGANIZATION”. And she was right: a TITANIC Organization that was bound to sink to the buttom of the ocean if care is not taken.

It was at that time that I vowed to her never ever to print again at 5D Imagery. Her response: “Oga, why now?” I told her that supposing I were to show up at their office and seize one of their apple computers, would she then issue a refund? I hung up.

I was surprised, I was frustrated. Why do organizations even have staff like these. Perhaps its a family business and they couldn’t be fired for such irresponsibility. 10 minutes later I got a call from my colleague that the refund had been miraculously issued.

Now the reason why I’m writing all these is most importantly because of the statement issued by the ladies when the refund was made. They told my colleague “YOU & YOUR BOSS ARE TROUBLEMAKERS”. If standing on my right is being misconstrued as “troublemaking”, then crown me King of all troublemakers. If I were the MD, I probably would not hesitate to fire the staff that messes with my clients. But then again, who am I.

What was more sad was the fact that this same erroneous mistake had happened to some of the photographers at the lab in times past and a refund was not made. One even said (upon seeing that a refund was issued us) that he will also be calling the MD whenever he had issues with the staff upon which one of the ladies replied that “You’ll just be wasting your time”.

So what GOOD came out of such BAD customer service experience, you ask? Well, I decided to keep to my promise of not printing with them again. I sent a broadcast to the 100+ photographers on my BlackBerry asking:

Can anyone recommend a print lab in Lagos State where I can print 10 by 20 and 12 by 36 prints. Any lab apart from 5d Imagery. Thanks

I was happy to discover that there were enough print labs that I could try out and hopefully not have the same experience. I’m now confused as to whether to choose Fotospeed (in Ikoyi), Skysnap (in Opebi), Swift (in Toyin street), Picture Works (in Yaba), Memoriez (in Surulere) or Dudu Prints (in Ilupeju). Now, please don’t take this as any form of endorsement on my part for any of the aforementioned Labs. The point is that now I have the option of choosing where to spend my money for printing services. Heck, I might even discover that I can get better image quality and customer service from any other company apart from …..

And even if all the print Labs in Nigeria have it as a nature to talk to customers any how, then perhaps its time for me or anyone else reading this to open up a world-class printing lab and let us know that world-class customer service is possible in an environment like ours.

P.S. If you’re one of the 500+ photographers reading this and you happen to know any other printing lab in Lagos (that has not been mentioned above) and has great customer service while simultaneously churning out great prints, PLEASE don’t hesitate to drop your comment and provide their details.

Even if you still think I’m a “troublemaker”, kindly drop a comment to advice me on what I should have done to “better” handle the customer service scenarios in both instances. As you do so, may your business not sink like Titanic.

Plan to attend the next session of Basic Course in Photography
For tips on growing your photography business, “like” our facebook page (facebook.com/elophotos), add us on your bb: 271E3BC8 or follow us on twitter at www.twitter.com/eloPhotos


  1. Opeyemi Ojudun · May 3, 2012

    well you have Replica digital photostudio on Allen road, Ikeja.


  2. Wale Akinola · May 3, 2012

    Seun, the fact is that most people at the Customer care agent seat do not understand what iheir responsibilities are. I had a similar experience with 4G Swift network….bad is an understatement. The only reason they will listen to you is to talk to their Superior officer who probably understands that business thrives on good recommendations that comes from good customer service delivery


  3. Anonymous · May 4, 2012

    you are and were absolutely on point……


  4. Anonymous · May 5, 2012

    @ wale 4G customer service is worst,they just lost a customer recently as far as am concern.i mean, if they could all start loosing customers 1 by 1 den dey’l understand rendering good service is more rewarding than goin after our money. mr seun. u went with a lawyer nd u didn’t do anything with him?


  5. Anonymous · May 26, 2012

    i like you fighting for your right! But come to think of it, you also render services to people how will you feel with one of your staff? Making trouble seems to me that you know what you are doing. Keep it up!


  6. Folake Ojeikere · June 20, 2012

    I enjoyed reading this piece. i kept asking myself what kind of experience have you had at Pictureworks Yaba. would my colleagues call to correct the mistake? would they cover it up? would they hide behind ‘company policy’? i do not know.

    thanks for sharing though. we are work in progress. we will continue to look at ways of relieving the stress of photographers rather than being the pain in the wrong part of your anatomy.

    Kind regards


    • elophotos · June 20, 2012

      Interestingly enough, I eventually did the printing at Pictureworks cos you guys came highly recommended. Keep up the good work and keep listening to your clients….cos that’s why we’re all in business


      • Anonymous · January 21, 2013

        picture works does churn good prints, but everytime i have sent someone there to print 5×7(max 5 copies) they are always told to either come back in 4hours or the next day. i’m assuming they have a heavy work schedule.


  7. Pingback: 3 Photography Print Labs You Should Check Out ASAP | eloPhotos
  8. Kreen4tos shop · January 16, 2013

    Am ken (aka)kreen4tos am in warri detal state i like ur work ur magezine i want 2 lear nd work work u gui plesKreenbaba@yahoo.com


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