‘I prefer bad customers’
By KATE HALIM
Tuesday, May 08 , 2012

Adefila

Omowunmi Adefila is so passionate about decorating spaces that the challenges she encounters in her business mean little to her. Whenever the CEO of Cravings and Luxury Interior sees a space, she sees an opportunity to be creative with the approval of her client.

In a recent interview with Daily Sun, Adefila stated why she prefers the so-called bad customers to the good ones and why she pays attention to customer service. Excerpts:

How did interior decoration start for you?
It’s inborn. As a child, I had a flair for combining colours and arranging rooms. I took that from my mom. My mom is always particular about arranging things, making sure everything was well organized at home and that everywhere is neat. I have worked in some companies where I gained experience in sales and marketing, the last place I worked was a foam manufacturing company.

I was fortunate to do what I enjoy being in charge of retail sales and setting up showrooms for the company. It progressed to setting up individual showrooms and shops for customers across Nigeria. I wasn’t satisfied doing that because it was restricted to beddings and bedding accessories but I wanted to do more. I had to resign and start up on my business, Cravings and Luxury interior decorating firm. It’s been great because I look forward to doing something new everyday, being creative with spaces and play with colours as well.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see a space?
The first thing I do is look at the client I am working with and find out his or her style as well as what works for him or her when it comes to decoration. We have unique tastes exclusive to any individual and as an interior decorator I can turn any space into something beautiful but I don’t impose my style on my customers. I always consider what the customer wants. I could try the cosmopolitan, English, antique style of decoration but it all depends on the customer. When I see space, I see an opportunity to be creative and I do that with the approval of my client.
How long have been running Cravings and Luxury?
As a hobby, I have been involved in it forever but as a professional, for six months now. I live for it and I can’t imagine myself waking up and not doing this anymore.

How do you deal with difficult clients?
We are humans and all have weaknesses. I have worked with all kinds of clients. I have had clients who just don’t care about you greeting them, they find it hard to respond when you greet them and only want you to get down to your job and do it well. Luckily for me, I have worked as a customer service personnel and a trained personnel so I know the important role customer service plays in handling clients and attending to customers. So, I always put that to play when I am dealing with difficult clients. No matter what you are doing, customer service is key and as long as you are serving the public, you have to be patient and display maturity in dealing with customers. I put this to play with the desire to give my customers the best when dealing with difficult clients.

What’s your opinion about businesses that don’t pay attention to customer relations?
As long as a business or company has a good customer service relations with their customers, they will keep coming back. When this happens, the company will always be in liquid and remain in business. The first thing that ruins a business is bad customer service relations. Unfortunately for Nigerians, we have categories of customers known as good and bad customers, however, I would prefer to have the bad customers.

The bad customers are better because they make you realize your mistakes. They are the ones that are nasty to you and tell you your mistakes to your face instead of pretending they are satisfied with your job. Their reactions may be unpleasant at the time but they are the ones that make you put in your best in your job because you are getting feedback immediately. I don’t want to have the good customers because they will not say a word but wait patiently no matter how you treat them or do their jobs but not only will they not come back, they will tell everyone about your services and it keeps multiplying. They seem good because they are not complaining but they are terrible for your business. With them, you don’t get feedback and don’t even know where you have gone wrong but you discover that less people patronize you.

What should people consider while trying to transform a space no matter how small?
When you are trying to bring out the best from a space, find out what you want to use the space for. Is the space for a sitting room, a bedroom, children’s room, a lounge, a home office or you just need that space to be there? What you want to use it for determines what will go into that space. Colour is another thing that should be determined when transforming a space. Your living room should not be dull, it should be inviting and should reveal your uniqueness. It should be a place of beauty but the less the better. The less items you decorate your home with, the better it looks, it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the space.

How well do you think Nigerians patronize interior decorators?
I am proud to be a Nigerian. I appreciate the fact that many Nigerians know what is good and go for it. I had a customer who waited for months for me to import everything I used in decorating her apartment. When you set up your home or office very well, it affects your productivity. It affects the way you feel and when you are happy, you are productive and when you are productive, everything works out well.

What challenges do you face?
One of the challenges include the ban on the importation of furniture which is also good for our economy because we now produce furniture in Nigeria. The finishings of the furniture we make in Nigeria is great but because we have to import most of the materials such as the fabrics, it becomes a challenge as it costs more money. Some of these materials are fragile and if not handled properly, they can be damaged before they get here and you can’t present your client with a damaged good. Electricity is also a challenge that we grapple with but we are getting by and making the best out of the situation.

What do you love most about being an interior decorator?
I love the smiles on people’s faces after I transform their spaces. I tell my customers to stay away for the duration that I would spend working on their spaces. They don’t get to see the process because it can be messy. By the time they get back home after I have worked there, that happiness and expression of joy is what gives me satisfaction more than even the monetary aspect of what I do. The satisfied look, compliments and appreciation from my clients keeps me going even during bad times.

What fond memories do you have about your childhood?
I believe that the society will be a better place if parents do their bit for their children from a tender age. I am fortunate that my parents always went the extra mile for us. They never spoilt us and at the same time, we never lacked good things. They punished us when necessary and also commended us when we did well. It made me the person that I am today.

How do you combine your business and family duties so that they don’t clash?
They don’t clash because I create time for everything. That’s the beauty of having your own business because I can decide for a week not to come to the office and just stay home with the kids. the most important aspect of being a business woman is that you have a supportive husband. I have a very supportive man and that is what makes my job easier. My husband supports me fully and I also create time for my family but when I am busy, they respect that and allow me do my job.
How creative are you fashion-wise?
I love looking good. I love colours and dresses. I also complement colours perfectly.

What I do reflects in my dressing.
What determines what you wear?
My schedule for the day determines what I wear. If I’m working on site, I wear my jeans and T-shirt so that I can work smart. If I am going for a corporate meeting, dresses do it for me because I am in love with dresses.

What advice do you have for women who wish to set up their own business?
No knowledge is lost, they should learn with every opportunity. When I was working in some corporate organizations before I set up my business, I used to detest some of my bosses because I felt they were punishing me with work. They assigned me to do business plans and sent me on official duties outside Lagos but as at the time I started my business, those trainings helped me. I sat down and designed a proper business plan that has helped my business so far.

I would advise women who wish to go into business to do a thorough research on what they want to do. They shouldn’t just jump into any business without knowing anything about it. It should also be something they are passionate about. Even when discouragement sets in, your passion will help you get back on your feet. If you going into any business just for the money and not because it’s your passion, you will get easily frustrated.

How do you relax?
My husband and children are my best friends. I relax with my family a lot. I can never be bored with my children because they keep telling stories that most times, I can’t make head or tail of. It is fulfilling being in the midst of people who truly love you. My husband and I spend time away from home a lot. These are relaxation moments for me.

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