Customer Service

I was on a flight from Lagos to Abuja with one of the very few airlines still flying in Nigeria. The flight was as usual, delayed. I came prepared, rereading The Greatest Salesman in the World by OG Mandino. After a 30-minute delay, boarding was announced and I noticed an unusual rush by passengers, I had to ask a lady by my side what the hurry was for and without looking at me, she replied, “Don’t you know they always overbook this flight to Abuja? If you slack, you might not get a seat”. I started laughing, but then decided to heed timely advice.

Fast forward to my getting on to the plane, my seat number was 21B. I typically take back middle seats after reading statistics on survival rates from plane crashes. I don’t particularly like flying and anything that can reassure a brother, apart from the routine safety tips before taxiing, helps.

Back to the story, the plane had no 21B, the numbering ended at 20. Air hostess tells me with a knowing smile, just take seat 13B. She looked like the Joker in Batman movies – like the smile was painted on her face. I thanked God for the earlier advice and quickly slid into 13B. Plane is getting more packed and people have started arguing about seat numbers, some other peeps had seat numbers starting with 21 too. I just looked outside my window to avoid any angry passengers that might complain about me being in their seat. I was also silently complaining that I was not seated at the back. You can’t be too careful in planes, yes it is the safest form of transportation, but I prefer being grounded (pun intended). What were the last words I said to my wife, oh I remember – I love you. That should stand the test of any circumstances.

Jolted from my thoughts and in the midst of the commotion, the air hostess shouts above the quarreling passengers, “Just take any seat that is available, we are late, the pilot has started taxiing for take-off”. Another drama ensued, grown people basically scrambling for seats like that game in parties where children dance around limited chairs and the music stops abruptly……. (I need to find out what that game is called). Anyway, thankfully, everyone got a seat. Back to OG Mandino reminding me of how much I loved this book. Only The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho made me move on from this book some years ago.

Save for the boarding drama, the safety pep talk, takeoff, climb, cruise altitude, on-board refreshment, descent, approach to landing and landing were simply spectacular – by that I mean totally uneventful, just how I love it. The weather and the pilot were in sync.

Just as we were taxiing to where we would alight, a crude male voice filled the airwaves. Different from the sweet voice that we heard at the start of our trip. That crude voice delivered a masterclass act in customer service. Donald started by flattering the pilot on how smooth the flight was and the “soft” landing. Everyone was surprised at the confidence of anyone associated with this airline bragging about anything, but he was right, it was a really smooth flight, one that I have grown to only expect from International flights. He spoke fluent English spiced with Pidgin at the right intervals, and got everyone cracked up, temporarily forgetting how poor the beginning of our trip was. He even got passengers replying some of his jokes.

By the time everyone was alighting, they were giving Donald handshakes, high fives and some were taking selfies. Some total strangers that didn’t bother to say hi to each other throughout the flight, because of the Game of Seats, started talking about Donald and how brilliant he was. When I finally got to see Donald, I realized he was the one that welcomed me on-board, served the business class passengers, and walked down the aisle of the plane with an unassuming smile. Nothing about his appearance would prepare you for his comic act.

We got on that plane with frowns, battle ready, but we left with smiles and generally warmer to one another. People were not rushing into the limited buses, they were more civil. Something changed with the laughter and smiles that Donald brought. Donald only reinforced something I have always known – people make the difference. Now whenever I get on a plane, I will be looking out for Donald.

My SI unit for Customer Service is KK (in honor of Kabiru Kassim who represents all that Customer Service is to me). I rate Donald 100 KK – the maximum rating for customer service. Thanks for the smile, Donald.

Back to the lessons from OG Mandino.

– Osasu Oviawe

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