21 February 2015

Hafiz Adewuyi

No customer service in a danfo

The rickety city transport bus, popularly known as danfo is about to set out on its Yaba to Iyana-Ipaja (Lagos) route. If you're listening, you can easily sense that the passengers are not happy with the driver con business operator. The time is 21:30, off-peak period when majority of the roads in the city have light traffic. Many of the passengers, being aware of this, are not happy with the driver for charging the usual daytime amount. One after the other, each one, inspired by the previous commentator, the disgruntled passengers voice out their displeasure, saying how unfair the driver was for exploiting them. Another factor - apart from the relative expensiveness of the ride - that contributes to the displeasure in the bus is the gross inadequacy of the seating space. Despite paying through their noses, the passengers still have to bear the discomfort of being crammed into a bus like sardines in a can.

In Lagos, a scene like this is not one that is hard to come by. Public transport operators - by their conduct - generally do not seem do have the slightest sense of customer service. To give a sense of the gravity of this condition, let me show you some of the things they do on a daily basis:

- They scowl at passengers for not having exact fare;

- Many of the time, the conductor (on-the-move cashier) will not give change until severally reminded by the passenger who has their money trapped with the conductor;

- When a passenger is to alight at an intermediate bus-stop (i.e. not the terminal bus-stop), operators are generally impatient to let the passenger do so in a comported manner. After stopping for like two seconds, the driver would typically talk down the passenger for being too slow if they're not out of the bus yet.

- When the bus reaches its destination and the conductor owes a number of people change, he often resorts to issuing out a bulk sum, hence transferring the work of finding change to the passengers. Worse still, he often does not recognize this as a service failure as he's not in the least sorry about it. He and his partner's one goal in life is to go as many cycles as possible in a day, and no hapless passengers are gonna waste his precious time on avoidable customer service.

Listening to the rant and rave from the danfo passengers yesterday, I felt truly sorry at the general state of things in my country. People generally do not accord one another basic respect as humans, and this is a basic problem in most sectors of the economy. Or why else would a service provider treat a paying customer rudely, even though the customer is the reason he's in business?

One other observation I made from the situation is the helplessness that is the norm around here. Clearly, more than half of the passengers in this bus thought they were being cheated. They're paying out of their noses and still, they're not even going to be afforded the simple luxury of having a nice ride. Yet, they do nothing about this but nag at the driver who has all but become desensitized to the hate directed at him from customers on the regular. He knows that Lagos passengers are all talk and no action. He's still going to smile to the bank at the end of the day anyway, no matter the number of curses the passengers direct at him. He's the only hope of the hordes of poor people who need to travel several miles between home and work daily. He knows this and not being one with a lot of patience or nobility, exploits it to his advantage.

I wonder what happened to boycotts. Yes, something as simple as a boycott could have dropped the fare to what the passengers collectively wanted that night.

Conclusively, I would say that this danfo/molue/LT/keke marwa (rickety shaw) transport scheme in Lagos is ready for an entrepreneurial disruption. No lousy service providers such as the operators in the Lagos public transport industry deserve to remain in business.

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27 May 2019 at 06:32 delete

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