‘How positive attitude, polish skills, lift productivity’
Mrs Clara Kolade, an etiquette expert, is the Chief Executive Officer of Exigo Finishing School. In this interview with FEMI ADEKOYA and ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, she gives a raison d’etre for skills’ acquisition in Nigeria; how many services could not achieve their bottom-line due to poor social etiquettes of their workers. She also proffers leeway to resolving social issues.
It is believed that a large chunk of communication is done non-verbally. Considering how poor customer service seems to be in this part of the world, how do you think value orientation can be addressed?
One of the biggest challenges that I have noticed in the service sector is that of low self-esteem and self-worth. People feel when they are doing a particular job, they are above the job and they feel if certain things had not happened, they wouldn’t be there. This, we are trying to address by building people’s self-confidence. There is dignity in labour. Whatever you do, do it well with joy. Anyone can take your shoes and clothes but nobody can take your skill. Skill is enduring and information is key. You submit to person that has information. You naturally gravitate towards somebody that has information. So we try to tell people to develop positive and healthy confidence and self-esteem as well as self-worth while developing mastery in a craft. Develop mastery and carve a niche in the industry where you belong. So that when someone comes to you and you are talking, they know you are speaking from the position of mastery and someone who knows what he or she is doing. That is what we teach essentially because your gifting can take you to any level or height.
Are you considering taking your services to the Ministries, Department and Agencies where customer service is perceived to be predominantly poor?
We have plans to sell our offerings to everyone. We are making efforts. By the time we achieve our objective in the private sector and people become aware of what we are trying to do, then they would be able to buy into our vision. Normally, we just want people to be aware that these things and that we can do it. For instance, when you get to a banking hall and see a queue, you should join the queue. When you get to Automated Teller Machines and you see two people, take your turn. We want to sell it to everybody, because some of the organisations I have taught, we have seen even the Chief Executive Officers seat at the meetings learning these things. It’s been wonderful. Everybody should get to hear and know about these things.
I don’t actually want to put myself in a box because everyone needs customer service whether you are in hospitality business. Even in churches these days, people are treated as customers. So I don’t want to put myself in a box. But the one that is mostly my heartbeat that I really want to do and concentrate on is teaching the young ones, especially the teenagers. The trend now is that teenagers feel it is now cool not to greet; it is now cool to leave the rest room and leave it worse than the way they met it. In consideration, we are saying leave the rest room better than you met it. We teach telephone etiquettes, email etiquettes, etiquettes in public places, in church, hospitals and airports. Everybody knows that all companies hire for aptitude and they fire for attitude. We just want an all-encompassing because if you know simple etiquette and I know, it is revolving and we would behave better. If you know that you should be considerate as a road user and give right of way to the next person, and the traffic/lock jam build will reduce and everybody would be able to go. But now everybody is struggling and contesting for right of way but if you think about the next man, I can let you go and follow you, so that the flow of traffic can be easy.
Sometimes capacity seems to be an issue, would you say your organization is ready for the larger market and what is your projection in the next five years?
We are ready for the larger market because we are not relenting. We don’t want to sell ourselves short; we are already on the right part. So whatever level that we have, we see ourselves being a big player in the global market in another five years. We have done our projects and we know that in five years, we are going to be a force to reckon with.
Through our services, people’s life has been transformed. Some of the clients that I have trained include front desk people, middle levels staff. For instance in Alpha pharmacy, Bruno’s place, Ikeja city mall, we have trained them. We have trained some other organisations like the Rock media. We have done all that and it’s been so impactful. Like in Bruno’s place, we have been able to teach customer service and excellent service delivery. So that when you come there, you get a wow experience. The way you are treated, the way you are received and we teach that once the customers come in, receive the customer well, let the customer be satisfied and usually goodbye. Closure is key. In this country, our closure is very poor. The customer should be treated like a king.
On affordability of services, we are very affordable because we are coming into the market but we are equally not cheap because we know the kind of offering we are churning out. If for instance we want to teach social etiquette as a course, we take you through all meals. We take you introduction, etiquette in public places, church, shopping mall and hospitals. Paying compliments, when you want to attend occasions; what to do, what to where and what not to wear, comportment, among other are all that we do. So it is not going to be cheap because these are the things we inculcate in them, these are things that remains forever with you. But it is going to be affordable.
What informed the conception of the finishing school initiative?
I love to teach and impact knowledge. My foundation is actually in education, I have worked for so many years in secondary school in Queen Amina College, Kaduna. Having left the teaching line, I ventured into the automobile industry. I was in Leventis motors and I rose up to the position of a branch manager in Kaduna. I left, came to Lagos and I started working in financial sector for about nine years and I left last year. So I just have this instinct to go back to my first love which is teaching and this would be very easy for me to do because I believe that attitude is everything. Whatever we do, we need to comport ourselves well. Attitude would help us get us back correct comportment. Etiquette essentially is consideration, respect and sensitivity. So if all us are considerate and practice the golden rule, do unto others how you want to be treated, then the society would be sane. The chaos would be reduced to barest minimum, which is what informed this finishing school and we just want to pass the information round, conduct affairs well and you do better when you conduct affairs well. That is the idea.
How long has the finishing school been in operation?
The school has been in active operation for over a year now; precisely, about a year and two months.
After training, do you do a kind of follow up to monitor your clients?
Yes we do. For instance, in Cakes and Candy, I pop in occasionally to observe the staff and see how well they are using and applying the skills. Sometimes, you go there, they forget because we taught them that when you are speaking to people even your colleagues, you have to choose your words carefully. We teach them interpersonal relationship, how you can relate with people. Friction would happen in work places and even in families. So we try to teach people to know the way they talk to people. These habits die hard. It takes a while before you can learn new skills. There are so many ways you can correct people without necessarily saying harsh words. So you can sell your message in a subtle way.
What is the duration of the courses and how flexible are the offerings?
What we normally do, if you have an organisation, we look at the kind of business an organization does and we look at the offerings. We could now list about five to seven things and they select. What we always put in most of the organisation is dining etiquette but most people shy away with it but tick what they want.
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