Before I write anything else, I’d better define ETDBW. It’s short for “Easy to Do Business With”. Why would such a measure be necessary? Well, if you’re like most people, you’ve probably interacted with organizations that seemed to go out of their way to make it difficult to do business with them. Two stories will illustrate the point.
A number of years ago (before electronic payments came to Nigeria) I ordered a hundred copies of a book from Amazon.com, the online bookstore. I arranged to mail a check to them via DHL. Someone at their end received the parcel. And then… And then it more or less vanished without a trace.
I began a series of online correspondences with customer service personnel to try and ascertain the whereabouts of the check to no avail. Twelve weeks, eleven mails (eliciting ever more evasive responses) and ten customer service staff later, there was still no clue as to where the check was. I then decided to take my case to a higher court. There was one small problem: nowhere on the Amazon.com website was there an email address to which I could write. I then got the bright idea of picking names of top shots from their corporate page and coming up with possible email addresses and writing them to make my complaint.
Within a day, I got a mail from the customer service director apologizing for the missing check and the evasive responses. She assured me the initial check was never cashed and suggested that I send a replacement if I still wanted to go ahead with the transaction. And did. Problem solved.
More recently, a well-known Nigerian bank sent its representatives to market their services to Nigerians living abroad – the so-called diaspora. A friend of mine who has been in Canada for close to ten years, but who is beginning to hunger for some roots in his homeland, decided to take them up on their offer and open an account. So he downloaded the forms, printed them out, filled and signed them and mailed them to me to complete the process for him down here. As I happen to have an active account in the same bank, I expected it to be a breeze. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After jumping through a number of hurdles seemingly designed to discourage me from opening the account, I came to their major joker: my friend’s international passport, which photocopy he had included for identification purposes, was too old. It had recently expired. Determined to go ahead, my friend went through the process of obtaining a new Nigerian passport through the Nigerian embassy in Canada. He scanned and mailed it to me.
Triumphantly, I printed and took it to the bank, where I was told they must see the original passport. Original passport! The fellow lives in Canada! In any case, I was told, the passport was too new. Too new!
I finally got tired of the whole process and wrote an email to the CEO of the bank. The very next day, I got a phone call from the bank’s head quarters. They apologized for the trouble I was going through, explained that they needed a definite identification of my friend and offered to go ahead and open the account if I agreed to endorse his application documents to show I knew him. I was only too happy to do so. Problem solved.
What lessons can we draw from these my experiences?
CEOs, business owners and top managers are usually alive to this need for customer focus. Witness the swift responses once my “cases” got to the top. Customer-facing employees must be educated as to what the true priorities are.
If the employees know why procedures were put in place, they are in a better position to judge when exceptions are appropriate and can suggest work-arounds that both ensure a pleasant experience for the customer while not violating the original purpose of the procedures.
Employees must be able to correct errors without going through layers of approval. They must be able to compensate a customer who has been ill-served for some reason.
So, take a look at your own organization and tell me truly, what is your ETDW rating?