• Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Who is your front person?

Who is your front person?

I arrived at my bank at about three o’clock in the afternoon and concluded my transactions within forty-five minutes. I drove slowly in tough traffic home. Having gotten out of the traffic and on the home run, I suddenly realised that I had left my phone charging in the lounge. As they say in most Nigerian traditions, it is when someone touches the item you have forgotten at the other end that your memory kicks in, and you suddenly remember that you have forgotten something somewhere.

So I made a turnaround and returned to the bank. I was not amused because I had to drive through the same monster traffic. While my house is about 10 minutes to the bank, traffic build up can sometimes give one a 25-minute timeline from my house to the bank and vice versa. So, I arrived at the bank well after four o’clock after the bank had closed. I was, of course, not after any transaction. I just wanted my phone.

In this digital age, once I realised I had forgotten my phone, my brain which is now locked to my phone considered calling my relationship officer to alert him that I had forgotten my phone in his branch, then I realised that it was clearly the phone that was in the bank that I needed to make that call.

They receive your guests, answer the phones, and represent you. They make or mar your brand and your institution

If all of this was not stressful, it would have been hilarious. So anyway, I arrived at the bank to a red-eyed security man. There were a handful of people who had arrived after banking hours milling around the entrance, seeking one assistance or the other.

I cut through them and explained my plight to the security officer. He gave me the eye and continued his longish phone call like I did not exist. I called out patience in my heart and head. Then, when he had had his phone call fill, he now asked me to repeat myself. I could barely contain myself when I again told him I had forgotten my phone in the lounge. Where? he queried, sizing me up like an insect.

Beside Hajia in the lounge, I said, trying not to lose it. Which of the Hajias, he continued. I blinked. There is only one Hajia at the lounge, I retorted loud enough for everyone to hear. Aah! He exclaimed, ‘and I am alone here, oh!’ I was trying to make sense of what he meant when a branch manager of another branch of the bank recognised me and came to my rescue. I am still wondering what that security man meant by he is alone. Was I to be on guard duty with him until a colleague of his joined him? Was I to give up my phone until tomorrow? Was I to help him determine his next line of action?

As a Nigerian, I am often at my wits end when my compatriots are given a position of authority. Whether it be a small post or a top-level position, whether it be in a church, mosque, or even head of an old school association or even an estate association. Most of us stagger into these positions drunk as skunks and power drunk, becoming too big for our breaches. We like the title Chairman, security in charge. We punish other citizens and show our power and energy in the most bizarre way.

So back to this security guard huffing and puffing up and down the front entrance of the branch and bringing all those with one problem or the other to misery. The bank had closed. This was now his turf. No discernment, no escalation. In the end, I got my phone back through the instrumentality of this branch manager, who also assisted some of those with genuine cases.

But it really should not be so. No one needed to recognise me. We did not need a branch manager to retrieve my phone. It was just discretion, which many persons holding the front end of many organisations do not have.

I have always wondered if security men and women posted to an organisation from offshore are retrained by these organisations. While heading Customer service for NT A many years ago, I used to put security men working with us who came from a security company through a bimonthly training to bring them up to speed about who we are, what we do and what our customer service mantra was and what our customer profile looked like. To encourage them to come for these one hour internal training, I threw in lunch.

Your front-end personnel from security guards to front office staff, secretaries, personal assistants, receptionists, customer service officers, and marketing officers all fall within a certain sector of the workspace. Front office. They receive your guests, answer the phones, and represent you. They make or mar your brand and your institution.

When we train this crop of staff now at The Eugenia Abu Media centre, we find that a lot of them do not know that just their non-verbal communication, their noisy space or a wrong or rude word can cost their institution or boss an opportunity.

Who is your front office person? What character does he bring to the table? Is he pleasant or gruff? Is he discerning or loose tongued? These people ought to be an asset not a liability. How well trained are they? I rest!