News Column

Customer Service At NIMC and the "Nigerian Bug" (2)

June 15, 2014

In continuation with the stages of the National Identity Management Commission's (NIMC's) registration process, put in place for the ease of the 'patronising' public, these I also encountered as respites for prospective registrants:

- Timely keying-in of information from applicants' forms, as data, into any of the computers located at (about) nine workstations; to when registrants awaited the collection of their National Identification Number Slip or NINS (what I assume to be forerunner to the Identity Card) and an Enrolment Transaction Slip, proof of going through the registration. All these were choreographed by young staffers clad in various colours of the T-shirt stated earlier, who made every step easily understood by all concerned.

- Going by hindsight about inefficiency being on the other side of the same coin with Nigeria's public service, my experience at this NIMC registration centre threw up an initial impression in me that what I was witnessing reflected operations of a private sector concern, on an outsourced basis. This was strengthened more by my observation of the operatives of the place (mostly females) being of about 25 years as average age; coupled with top-level comportment and efficiency which prompted my asking two questions, stated later in this submission.

- At the electronic registration point or workstation, the lady who attended to me was so polite that she even referred to me as "Daddy". While keying-in what I had on my already completed form into her computer, she made sure I followed every bit of the related entries she made on another computer monitor placed on the counter for computer-literate registrants. I was completely stunned on noticing the 'nursery school type' attention her colleague at an adjacent workstation was giving to a registrant who was obviously not in tune with the English language.

After completing my registration, I was nicely requested to proceed to the final stage, being to await the collection of my NINS. As I managed to come out of my bewilderment, I posed two questions to her: "Going by the magic I am seeing here today, are you guys really staff of NIMC, or those of a company having these functions outsourced to it?"

She smiled and responded that all I was seeing were of NIMC, and that they were all bona-fide members of the organisation. Still bemused, my second question came thus: "Like thousands of others having relatives seeking post tertiary education work opportunities, I will not hesitate to recommend this place to any qualified youngster related to me. What does it take to work in this set-up?"

She smiled again, and suggested that I should advise any such prospective applicant to watch out for NIMC's vacancy advertisements in the newspapers. I thanked her, moved on to the next and final stage.

While I braced up for long wait, having made up my mind to ameliorate the effects of such by reading every page of the Daily Independent with me (to be even complemented by the novel stated earlier), this was not what happened.

I was requested to come over to another point after about five minutes of waiting, to collect my NINS and an accompanying Enrolment Transaction Slip, and then politely informed that my National Identity Card would be available within the next fourteen days. That I would be notified through a Short Messaging Service (SMS) to my mobile phone, in line with what I had indicated as a preferred mode of notification.

Incidentally, a friend called me later that evening. The tipping point of his disenchantment with Nigeria occurred at the loss of his sister-in-law (a 'Youth Corper') during the 2011 post elections violence in Bauchi. It culminated in his relocation (with wife and teenage children) back to his former base in Europe. In the course of the usual "how do you do?" and how things were with me in Nigeria, my experience at the NIMC registration centre earlier in the day easily came to mind, and became a subject of discussion.

His reaction to the unusual form of customer service delivery at NIMC was, "Just give them six months from today, after being bitten by the Nigerian bug". "Nigerian bug, what the heck is that?" I queried. His reply was really a new one to me - "When the Nigerian bug bites, it transfers a culture of inefficiency and corruption". "I'm not convinced. Thank God, if you get the Identity Card in the next six months. Just give NIMC a few months down the line and you'll hear a different story", he further stressed.

As I write this, I am still not swayed by my friend's standpoint. About NIMC being affected later by the "Nigerian bug", which epitomises corruption, inefficiency, impudence, and 'any thing goes mentality', which have all refused to go away from Nigeria.

While I know that customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service (as what holds at NIMC typifies), my experience at the place portrayed true customer service delivery, and a complete reverse of typical Nigerian disheartening public expectations about what remains the order of the day in governments' establishments. Since something good always comes out of every unfortunate situation, I hope goings-on at NIMC will persist, not paving way for a crash in standard. Will NIMC remain this way, or allow the "Nigerian bug" have a stranglehold on it later?

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Source: AllAfrica

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