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« Ozodi Osuji Lectures #29: Introduction to Labor Relations | Main | Gani Fawehinmi: His Crass & Poor Taste “Criticism” »

November 09, 2005

Ozodi Osuji Lectures #30: Introduction to Customer Care and E-Commerce

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji (Seatle, Washington) --- In a capitalist economy, businesses are suppliers of goods and services. They read the market and see what the people demand, what the people desire and undertake to produce and supply them to the people. If the supplier reads the market well, his goods and or services sell to the people and he makes profits and stays in business.

But if he misjudges the market and produces what there is no demand for, his goods and or services are not bought by the people. He does not make profit and goes out of business. Worse, he loses his capital investment in the business and would have wasted his time and energy producing whatever goods and services he produced.

Businesses must produce what the people desire, not what the businesses think that the people should desire. What you think that other people should want and what they actually want are two different things.

A business man simply supplies what the people want. (Of course, through clever advertisement it is possible to create a demand that was not already there hence get people to buy what hitherto they did not want to buy. Only a few years ago, none of us knew that he had a need for computers. But today, we would literally not exist if we did not have, at least, four computers around us (two at home, one in the office, and a lap top…this is the typical situation for middle class Americans; if there are children in the house each child also has his own computer, all networked and connected to the world wide web, we are all wired sand connected to the information super high way).

It is possible to come up with a new product and or service and get people to demand it, as if their lives depend on it. But this is so rare that we need not worry about that; what is generally common is for people to buy what they have needs for. Thus, for our interest suppliers of goods and or services, business men and women, must produce what the market demands, if they want to sell and make profits and stay in the business.

The market now is the world; we live in an interconnected world and are competing with folks from all over the world. The global market is a reality, not fiction. A product produced in one corner of the globe is quickly replicated elsewhere. Indeed, your product is scarcely off the line when folks in China replicate them, produce them and sell them at cheaper prices, too.

For you to sell your products and stay afloat, you must constantly strive to improve the quality of your goods and services, sell them cheaply and care for those who buy them.

Customer care is very critical for obtaining and retaining buyers of your goods and services.

I like to give the example of the former communist Eastern Europe. There, the state was the business person. Things were produced by government bureaucrats. First of all we know that governments bureaucrats tend to have job security hence are not motivated to improve the quality of their products. So the goods and services produced in Eastern Europe were generally shoddy. Bureaucrats have their jobs irrespective of whether they sell or not their products. For our present purposes, bureaucrats did not care about the quality of their customer care. Indeed, they felt like they were gods and did not bother even treating the customers nicely.

As it were, the sales clerk selling bread in the Former Soviet Russian store felt like she was doing you, the buyer of her bread, a favor, for other wise she would tell you that there is no bread and you would do without bread. You stood on the line for hours to buy bread, bread of the worst quality known to man.

Communist bread is not even fit for American dogs to eat, and that is correct. More to the point, the sales clerk treats you in the most arrogant and patronizing manner. She did not respect the customer for she did not see how it is that the customer was keeping her employed by buying from her hence making it possible for her to be employed selling her poor quality products.

Simply stated, customer care in the former Soviet Union was abysmal. A right thinking person would not want to buy anything from these people. Thus, when communism collapsed, the people simply ignored not only Soviet made goods but Soviet services and looked to the West for replacement goods and services.

Western businessmen took one look at Soviet workers and considered them lacking in good customer care and embarked on retraining them. They were retrained to care for the customer, for the customer is king. The customer gave you his money and with his money you stay in business. The worker is paid with money given to him by the buyer of the business goods and services. Were it not for the customer the employee would not have a job. Thus, it stood to reason that the employee ought to be grateful to the customer and treat him nicely.

Customer care is now an inherent aspect of capitalist economies. You must listen to what your customers want and improve your goods and services to meet their desires. If your customers complain about the quality of your goods and services, you better listen to them, for in a capitalist economy others can, and will produce what you are producing and selling. If the customer does not like your goods and services he takes his money elsewhere and buys from other businesses and you go out of business.

Do you want to stay in business? Then study what your customers want and do it. Treat your customers nicely. If they complain, take their grievances seriously and come up with actions plans to remedy their complaints. Do not shine off customers complaints. Do not be rude to customers. In fact, hire a class of employees called customer care specialists to listen to your customers’ complaints and do what they ask for. These employees must be very respectful and treat customers in the most dignified and courteous manner.

In advanced capital economies, customer care is taken seriously. This contributes to the success of these economies. But in third world countries customer care is not always taken seriously.

Indeed, in third world sections of first world countries, customer care is not excellent. If in the USA, go to the black neighborhoods and try patronizing black businesses. Generally, (there are exceptions) you would find black employees very rude. They treat you in the most disrespectful manner. Of course, you walk away and do not buy from them. Consequently, black owned business collapse right and left.

On the other hand, go to Asians run businesses. The Asians would treat you with the ultimate respect. They would make you feel like a king and or queen for a day. Your ego’s vanity is given attention. You end up buying from them. Go to a Chinese restaurant and see good service at work. Then go to a black restaurant and feel frustrated. The result is that Asians make it in the business world, whereas black Americans fail and have to depend on governments to employ them.

In government they behave like bureaucrats everywhere: lazy and inefficient. Since the chances of promotion to higher positions are slim in bureaucracies, thus, the brothers and sisters generally end up making poor incomes as government bureaucrats. If only these people could learn good customer service and go start their own businesses and serve the public well, they would make good living.

In Nigeria, customer care in the public sector is pathetic. You don’t want anything to do with government workers. They treat you as if they are god and doing you favor. Not long ago, I went to the Nigerian Embassy at Washington DC to renew my passport. The clerk was so rude that I literally walked away. The man ought to have been trained to be respectful to all customers and to smile and use the term sir or mam for all customers. Instead, he sat behind his glass windows, ignoring the people on the line and when finally the king of Nigeria had time for the customers he talked in the rudest voice you ever heard in your life. His feeling is that he is doing you a favor and that you ought to please him, god. Indeed, he probably wanted to be bribed too?

These people are simply not good workers and either are retrained or fired. The good news is that in the villages our market women and men are generally the most courteous human beings alive. I visit my town’s market and the traders there treat you like you are a king for a day and you buy their goods and services.

We do not need to belabor the obvious. We have poor quality customer care in the public sector in Nigeria. We have to change the situation. We have to get government employees to realize who pays their salaries, the public that they serve.

Although I generally hate management fads, I would institute Deming’s Total Quality Management, TQM in Nigeria right away. I would improve customer service. I would have every government care how the public perceives its treatment of them. I would have grievance procedures for the public to complain when it feels poorly treated by bureaucrats. I would fire bureaucrats who disrespect their customers, those who put bread on their table by paying their wages.

E-COMMERCE

We now live in the age of computers. The work place is computerized. The whole world is networked in the World Wide Web. Employees and businesses must now be computer literate. There are no two ways of going about it. What is needed is to train all employees to have necessary computer skills.

The typical office worker ought to be proficient with Word processing, Excel, Accel, Power point and other office technology; he ought to know how to navigate the Internet, email, searching for information with the various search engines (yahoo, Googol etc).

In addition to general computer skills, every business has specialized computer technology. Indeed, every profession, these days, has specialized software for its members work. In the past, for example, accountants and bookkeepers meticulously entered all their data entries into hand written journals. Today, many accounting software, such as Quick book, is available to book keepers. Engineers do much of their designs on computers. Airlines have specific uses of computers, both in selling tickets and operating their airlines that those in that industry must know; medical doctors are wired to other doctors and can, in fact, watch specialists around the world doing their work, diagnosing patients, performing surgery, consulting known experts in their fields.

In the world of teaching, the world is now our classroom and students can be wired to learn from professors far away from them.(When I was at the University of Alaska, folks in remote Eskimo villages were connected to the University’s IT and could participate in class rooms with professors teaching in far away Anchorage or Fairbanks or Juneau. They could also go to their local libraries and have access to professors’ lectures stored in certain websites.

All of Nigeria could be wired so that students everywhere in Nigeria could follow the teaching of secondary school physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics (the subjects that really matter in a scientific world) at the best secondary schools in Nigeria.

Let’s assume that Government College Umuahia is still the best at teaching science in Alaigbo. The teachers are connected to the internet and their lectures are fed to all students in the area who have access to the internet to follow their teachings as they do so. This way, students have access to the best teachers and the best instructions found at the best schools, not the nonsense taught in village secondary schools. Some of these new village secondary schools do not even have laboratories and students cannot perform experiments.

I was talking to a recent graduate of a secondary school in my village and he told me that he did not take science subjects because his school did not have science teachers and laboratories. I could not believe what this 18 year old was telling me. If you did not study physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and earth science you did not go to school, period.

Studying, history, geography etc, as he did, simply cannot cut it in the modern world. To avert such disasters, we ought to wire the entire country and have students who attend rural schools have access to the teachings of science at the best schools in the country. This should apply to elementary, secondary and universities and technical schools.

Information technology is here to stay and all businesses must use it to improve their business. Very soon, people will shop right from their homes: look at the goods stacked in stores’ shelves on their computer screens and use their mouse to click on items they want and have the stores deliver such goods to them at home. Some stores are already doing that in the USA. You shop from your home! You can shop from your home for all kinds of things, books, used items. Just go to Amazon.com and see what you can do with Internet shopping.

I am aware that Nigeria is a third world country and is not going to be like a first world country any time soon. It is idealistic and hopeless fantasy to expect Nigeria to have the type of technology that America has. Even European countries do not have the type of sophisticated technology available to American school kids. Give American elementary school kids home work assignment and they immediately go to the Internet and go to sites where they could obtain information on the subject and read up on them. Tell them to tell you what Newton’s mechanics is and they go to the Internet, type the name Isaac Newton and get as much information on the man’s physics that even a Nigerian secondary school physics teacher does not have.

The Internet is doing wonders for schools and education. One wishes that this type of sophistication is available in Nigerian villages.

All businesses must become aware of how they could use computers and the Internet to improve their business activities and sell their products. Advertising on the Web is now a major avenue for advertising ones products. Selling products through the Web is now a major source of selling goods and service. Simply stated, no business person worth that name can fail but seek ways to take advantage of information technology to improve his business.

Politicians and government workers must pay particulate attention to computers and information technology. All politicians ought to do what we do over here: always go to evening classes to learn about new technology. I remember when personal computers came out in the early 1980s. I went back to a community college to learn about it. When the internet came out, I went to take classes on how to use it. When any new office program is added to computers I go to take a course on it. If Microsoft adds a new program to its Windows, off I go take a course on how to use it. Learning is an unending exercise.

Our leaders and politicians ought to be in a forever learning mode. There is no longer any such thing as an end to education. One must learn for however long one lives.

There ought to be evening classes in every town where one can go and learn new things. If bored, instead of drinking the poison of alcohol or over eating why not go to your local community college and take a class on something you do not know? Become a life long learner. Life is fun and exciting if one is always learning something new and different.

Our leaders in Nigeria ought to be required to become computer literate and Internet savvy. For one thing, that would make them learn to type so that they do their own typing and stop relying on typists and secretaries. (Not long ago, a Nigerian friend faxed me hand written material to type for him. Here we have it, a younger man expected me to type his materials for him. Why? Because he knows I type very fast. So I asked him: why don’t you go learn how to type? He said that he has a typist that he pays to type his materials for him and that she is out of town hence he wanted me to type the urgent material he needed typed. I told him to go learn how to type and buy a computer…he did not have one… and join the information age. That was the last I heard from the coxcomb. He is too important to type. To him, only lowly typists type. What an idiot. He excludes himself from access to a lot of information available to those who have access the World Wide Web. What a pity.)

All politicians and government officials ought to know how to type and use computers or they should be fired from their jobs. A permanent secretary does not need a secretary to type for him; he ought to type his own materials. We do not need to make these idle people more idle than they already are.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

November 11, 2005

PS: With this lecture, I end my self imposed task of giving thirty lectures on politics and business for Nigerians. I hope that you found these essentially freshman level lectures useful. Should you seek more advanced information on any of the topics that I covered, please go study them at your local universities. And when you are sufficiently trained, please share your knowledge with our people. The level of ignorance I see in our people is unacceptable. Whoever knows something ought to share it with the rest of us. We can learn from each other.

I will edit and add references and bibliography to these thirty lectures and publish them as a monograph on Nigeria. The edited version should be ready by early next year. You can order it from: info@africainstituteseattle.org

I will be in touch with you in January, 2006, when I start my proposed weekly lectures on African countries. Each week, I will focus on an African country until I have done 52 African countries.

May the struggle for the liberation of the minds of Africans continue!

Cheers.

Ozodi

Posted by Administrator at November 9, 2005 02:05 PM

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