Today we are crushing on Elizabeth Taylor; the brain behind EVA WRIGHT. Elizabeth is a customer service guru and is passionate about Customer Service and helping individuals be the best they can be. This is one woman who has personally been a source of inspiration to me. Read on…
Tell us a little about yourself
I am the last child of three girls. My dad is of Sierra Leonean decent, first generation Nigerian, and my mom is from Enugu state. I was born in ancient Benin City, and my foundational educational experience was at Mrs. Tahals in GRA Ikeja – that’s important because it’s on this foundation that everything I’ve achieved has been built. Another major influence – was Air Force Girls Military School, Jos. That’s where I learnt important, amazing and strange stuff like discipline, feminism, map reading, weapons training etc. I studied Business Administration at University of Abuja. In addition to that I have a Masters in Knowledge Management from the Aberdeen Business School. I am also a Certified Executive and Life Coach, and have attended a myriad of courses both within our noble country and outside that have prepared me to do what I love – that is help both people and organizations actualize their goals. I am also fortunate to be an Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu Fellow.
I worked with the defunct FSB International Bank where I was a Public Sector relationship. I have also worked as a Clients Advisor and Quality Assessment Officer at First Point Assessment Ltd (an Achilles company) in Aberdeen. Then at ASO Savings & Loans Plc I wore various caps at different times including Head of Service Quality Management Department and Customer Service; at the time I left ASO I managed the banks Operations Group made of the Cash Management Department, Branch Operations Department and Cheque Writing Unit. I currently run EVA WRIGHT a knowledge management company operating from Abuja but offering business productivity, customer service consultancy and training. In my capacity as a Coach I also work with individuals (both at their instance and at the instance of their employers) to actualize their objectives.
You headed Customer Service for some years in Aso savings . What was your experience especially Regarding getting your subordinates to understand the importance of Customer Service
My experience in this role was the most daunting and challenging but fulfilling of my banking career . The bank had a myriad of customer service problems and from a Quality Management perspective (I headed Service Quality Management before the move to Customer Service) I saw all the problems but was not empowered to solve any of them. My supervisor then – Executive Director Mohammed Shehu Inuwa saw my acute frustration and one day said ‘okay madam, since you are obviously as frustrated …go and solve the issues…and I want RESULTS!’ Talk about deer caught in the headlamps of a fast moving car – because I knew that the issues were BIG. This was not just fixing the customer service department, but fixing customer service in the bank!
The bank had issues of missing customer files, no articulated standard operating processes, customer instructions not being executed for months, no SMS/Email alerts that worked at that time, poor staff attitude and so much more. These were the challenges that my big mouth (laughing) got me into.
When I resumed as Customer Service Manager, I decided to work first on the customer service department and work outwards. I believe that excellence is infectious, and by creating an oasis of excellence in a sea of seeming mediocrity I felt we could create a compelling picture that people would aspire towards. So, I spent my first four weeks sitting with customer service officers, hearing their interactions with customers, listening to customers’ opinions and taking note of their expectations. I needed to get them to trust me first before making the required major changes . I got two people working in the team to show me the ropes and rested on their technical knowledge – Anita Momoh and Garba Usman Bida are amazing, and they were willing to follow me boldly go where no one has gone before. They too had hearts and eyes for excellent service, but they were never empowered to make the changes and so were similarly frustrated – I empowered them. Three of us formed the nexus that first purged the department; we found and brought in people with similar passion for excellence service to the team. While building the team, we worked long days and most weekends reviewing, updating and in many cases writing operational policy documents, the banks customer charter; we created and standardized forms. I am particularly proud of the work we accomplished, it was a team effort. And while we did all of this tactical work we retrained every customer service officer; everything was addressed, dressing, attitude, speed, you name it, we learnt it. I am extremely proud of the team we built – because service delivery is a team effort. Each of us was 100% sold out – as the Americans would say…we were using our own merchandise (laughs). I knew we had accomplished a lot the day a customer of ours came to the bank (after Sallah) with the uncooked leg of a cow for the head office customer service team. Now that’s a satisfied customer right? What did we do with the cow leg? A team member Emeka took it home and cooked it for us – it was yummy!
At the time I left the team in 2014, it was the most productive team in the bank, consistently scoring over 80% in independent customer satisfaction surveys. And written customer commendations were so commonplace that getting one was no longer a big deal.
After we had built a formidable team, I got the management of the bank to take a risk based on my judgement. I told them to invest in specific customer service related reorientation for the entire bank – from office assistant to Managing Director. They were supportive and we made it work. It was a big campaign but we pulled it off with the team of Service Champions we inducted.
Please tell us about Eva Wright what inspired you to set it up and what can entrepreneurs hope to look forward to at one of your boot camps?
EVA WRIGHT is a knowledge management company, the services we provide from business productivity consulting, to customer service consulting and training, including coaching arose from my passion to help both individuals and companies be the best they can be. I am primarily a solutions provider – that’s how my mind is wired and that’s where I find the highest and purest expression of myself. So, Eva Wright is geared at solving problems.
Entrepreneurs go through a lot in Abuja, from the frustrating lack of access to capital and finance, to the absence of business skills which contributes to a successful enterprise. You also find that most entrepreneurs don’t have the knowledge needed to help them run exceptional businesses. In addition, I’ve lived in Abuja most of my life and see that there is no cohesion or synergy amongst businesses operating here so we are not building critical mass in our business community. Cohesive networks and collaboration are pillars of business success in this knowledge economy; and an amazing way to create cohesive networks is through Mastermind Alliances. So Eva Wright presented the city with a platform called Entrepreneurs Basecamp, it is simply a Mastermind Alliance (MA), but with a twist. As with every good MA, we network, generate strength from each other but we take it a step further – every other month we bring in thought leaders to talk to us about topics within their areas of expertise – from digital marketing, to customer service, to business funding etc. This is me again trying to solve a problem. The average business in Abuja closes shop after two years, if Nigeria is to survive small businesses must thrive – and this journey starts at Entrepreneurs Basecamp.
Anyone who knows you will know that you are all about books! ( Indeed you introduced me to one of your book suppliers) Tell us about your romance with books and how that has helped shape you into the woman you are.
Yes… I am a voracious reader. It’s a habit that has become a lifestyle. I cannot walk past a shelf of books without exploring. When women invest in shoes, jewelry and such, my investments are my books. And I DO NOT borrow my books to anyone! They are too precious!
My earliest memory of reading was when I was in primary school and we lived in Ikeja. I remember disturbing my mom that I needed something to read, and she drove me to UTC in Ikeja to buy books. We got two books – one was probably called ‘Wrapping Paper Bush’ – maybe 30/40 pages in each book with pictures. Once we got into the car I got reading (I’m not interested in the pictures – it’s the words that get me – In my world words paint a far more interesting picture than any artist can draw) and by the time we got home to Adeniyi Jones Ikeja, to my mom’s irritation, I had finished reading both books! I proudly told her ‘mum I’m done…let’s go back and get more!’ You should have seen the look she gave me…then she hissed and said ‘you will read them again’!
I really don’t know where my love for books started, maybe it’s because I have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. I will read almost anything just to learn how something is done, how it works, what happened, etc. I hate to draw a blank mind card on any topic. My mom says she prayed to God to give her kids that read…but add that God did His usual exceedingly, abundantly above with me, lol.
Books have shaped my world view because before I stepped off the shores of Nigeria, I had been to every continent, visited with Good Queen Bess, (Elizabeth 1) learned about success from Napoleon Hill first hand, explored ancient civilizations, participated in the revolution that dismantled slavery in Haiti, climbed mountains, been a part of a warring party of Indian braves…just by inserting myself in the words. From my books I had tested the limits of my conviction, formed stronger convictions, and sharpened my emotional intelligence skills, found my voice as a woman living in what they call a man’s world. I have my books to blame for my insatiable ambition. I believe I am a connection of knots of the experiences I’ve had in my corner of the world between the pages of whatever book is in my hands at the moment.
On a personal note I know you embarked on a weight loss journey and have made remarkable progress. What inspired this journey and what advice do you have for other trying to lose weight?
I said earlier that I love to help people solve problems; I believe my purpose is to encourage people in their pursuit to live the best expression of their lives. From what I’ve exposed of myself, you can obviously deduce that I am a very reflective person. So in my reflections I thought;
1. Am I living the best expression of my life (I was over 160kg and a UK size 28)? 2. When people look at me, do they see someone who is sufficiently in control of her own destiny that we can trust her to help us navigate ours? 3. Time is running out – you are eating yourself to an early grave and when you stand before God having died prematurely of the obesity related diseases, what will you tell him?
In reflecting on these, I realized that I was not a good steward of this body that God had blessed me with. And I want to be. I want to help as many people for as long as I can be the best expression of themselves that God has created. And if shifting the weight would help me live my purpose, I was going to be committed to becoming healthier. It’s not a sprint but a marathon, and I am committed so that I can execute the purpose of my existence.
Service is sadly the exception in many organizations. What tips do you have for the average person who is looking for good Customer Service?
I have a watch word that drives me and underpins everything I do, and that is “PRIDE”. It’s actually an acronym for ‘Personal Responsibility in Delivering Excellence’. I tell everyone that the buck for excellence rests with me – in spite of the state of the nation, even if my boss is rude or whatever, even if my husband annoyed the pants off me this morning. How I deliver excellence is a function of how I decide to respond to my customers. It’s a function of how I see myself and holding myself accountable to my values. In other words, the Golden Rule. Excellence Customer Service is intuitive, and anyone can offer excellence.
Finally, we need to help our country to deliver excellence consistently – so speak up when you don’t receive excellent service, excellent products don’t ‘manage’ then step away to complain. Speak up on the spot and tell whomever what you as a customer expects – maybe they don’t know and they won’t ever know if they are not ever told/taught.
As a certified bookworm tell us about one book that every woman should read. Also what are you reading now and why?
Off my head I would recommend that every woman get their hands on any biography of Elizabeth 1 (Good Queen Bess). I am partial to the business/management exegesis of her life by Alan Axelrod called “Elizabeth 1: CEO – Strategic Lessons from the Leader Who Built an Empire”. (I actually made everyone in my customer service leadership team to buy and study this book, and it’s a major module in the leadership development course we teach at Eva Wright). Elizabeth 1 was a phenomenal achiever, who knew how to frame her narrative, and manage older and more opinionated men than we have today, she defied the odds and stabilized her empire in the midst of a religious crises, and lead her people to victory in the face of the Spanish invasion – so much to learn – especially when you dimension her habits and mindset.
I am currently reading ‘Conquer: Tactics to Crush Analysis Paralysis, Execute Effectively & Perform at Your Peak’ by Patrick King. Why? Who does not want to execute effectively and perform at their peak? I always want to be on my A Game – I always say that I am in competition with no one but myself. I need to keep sharp- especially as I have ventured into entrepreneurship.
It’s been lovely speaking to you Elizabeth; wish you all the best in your endeavors.