I was young and exuberant; threw the “C” in “Caution” out of the window, and lived like caution was for the elderly. I loved to speed, to race, overtake any and every vehicle in my way. I was a skid solo and loved to be regarded as such. Every trip was an opportunity to show off my dare-devil skills on the wheels. I drove like I was born for speed on the wheels. Whooshhhh!
It was during the military regime, MKO had just been declared winner of the Presidential Race that would have ushered in the 3rd Republic. There was hope for Nigeria. Excitement in the air.
I was returning from a three-day Marketing Workshop in Benin City, back to Lagos, and noticed a Petrol Station selling from the pump, around Ijebu Ode. Grabbed the opportunity, because fuel scarcity was characteristic of the “regime” in 1993. I filled my fuel tank and spare jerry can, and sped out of the Station. I watched my speedometer climb to 140 … 150 … 160 km/hr. – I felt good. It was a refurbished Korean Car – the only Korean brand in Nigeria. I was excited! My colleague sat calmly beside me. She was used to my driving… and then, POW! Front wheel tire exploded.
Mistake 1: I slammed on my brakes. The vehicle skidded, swirled around and was in a reverse direction towards Lagos. We were saved by the median on the Expressway, or was it by an Angel? I watched our belongings fly out of the trunk of the car into the nearby bushes. I was mesmerized. Oncoming motorists slowed down to where our vehicle finally made a stop. I was in shock and too petrified to come out and survey the damage (it was my first official car). How was I going to explain this in the office? This was the only thought that occupied my mind.
Some Good Samaritans had begun to gather. They carefully helped us out of the vehicle and some went into the bushes to gather our belongings. I recognized one of the people who helped me out of my side of the vehicle. He was a fine-looking, middle-aged gentleman who had alighted from a black SUV. He was one of the main speakers at the Marketing Workshop that took place in Benin City. He had visited our Exhibition Booth and after a couple of demos on our Computers and UPSs, he told me that his automobile company would be needing our products and services in the near future. His company had the sole assemblage and distributorship for the particular brand of Korean car that I drove, and he was the General Manager. They were on a systemic tour to promote the auto brand across the country, seeing that they had strong competitors from Japan. They had just completed the construction of a second assembly plant in not-too-far-away Sagamu.
He held my left arm very tight as I squinted, trying to make any sense of anything. He must have thought I was unstable and would walk unguarded into the busy expressway. He asked me to relax and I sat by the side of the road. He had asked his driver to push my badly beaten car to the side of the road. As he stood beside me and supervised the pushing of my car, he brought out his 090 mobile phone and made a quick call to his Sagamu Assembly. He didn’t say anything to us, but just stood by our side. His company’s towing van arrived at the scene some minutes later, and began to haul our vehicle. Our luggage had been arranged in the trunk of his SUV and he asked us to get in. We rode behind our vehicle to their plant in Sagamu. Once we got to the plant, our car was wheeled to the repairs shed and about four men in overall began to work on it. I was troubled! Who was going to pay for all this professional attention? I would have just towed it to my mechanic at Opebi and kept it there it I was financially ready to fix it. More trouble!
While there, we were escorted to their health centre for a preliminary medical checkup. I was fidgety. Who was going to pay for all this attention? I was so concerned that I affirmed that my colleague and I were alright and did not need any checkup. “Nonsense”, he said in a friendly but firm tone. I obliged. The medical intern had told me that it was standard procedure that all their staff had a checkup in the case of an accident at work; and since we came from the GM, there would be no medical charge. I heaved a sigh of relief.
That done, the GM asked if I gauged my tires before travel. I said, “yes, I did”. He asked what they were gauged to. 40 each, “I replied”. He snorted under his breath and shook his head mildly. “That is the problem with these roadside technicians. Each of the tires for your saloon car type do not need more than 35 PSI of air pressure.” “Oh, I didn’t know that … I was the one who told him to gauge them to 40”, I thought out loud. “But he should know better, he is the technical person”, he argued. “I immediately see the need to educate vulcanizers and other auto technicians on auto maintenance”. “We have to organize free learning workshops for them,” he continued. Well, all of that wasn’t my immediate problem. I was still suffering from king-sized anxiety – how do we get home, the bill on the car, and my report in the office. I had a witness – I was over-speeding.
Just then, the engineer walked up to the GM’s office and I heard him say, “luckily, we have all the parts needed to repair the car; they are the demo parts that we received from HQ last year. They’ve just being lying there in the store, as this car model is no longer being sold. They’ll just need to pay for spray-painting.” “What?” I almost fell out of my chair. “This has got to be a long dream,” I thought. The estimate for painting was N7,000. I did not ask what the entire repairs would have cost me.
Long story short, I was given a loaner saloon (newer model) to take home and use while they fixed my car. They were both promoting and testing their brand in Nigeria, and I was a good bait. It was their blue ocean strategy to win customers loyalty. A couple of weeks later, my car was brought to my office and I also got the N25 million contract to fully automate their operations, set up their data centre at Sagamu and network their entire plant with fibre-optics. Six months later, we won an additional N16 million contract, to connect the Sagamu plant to their Lagos HQ.
If you don’t take good care of your customer, your competitors will; and gladly too. The Koreans have it! This story is partly fictitious. Don’t Copy, Give Credit!
Now, is this forward-thinking Customer Service or what?