Marcel: Message from the Morning Man by Kojo Yankson


Marcel: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson

29th October 2015

During my holiday, I spent four days in Paris. We had a wonderful hotel on the Rue de Seze – excellent in every way, except its lack of an in-house restaurant. Guests were served a brilliant breakfast, but were left to fend for themselves the rest of the day. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it forced us to explore the city in search of nice, cheap food.

Now, Paris is Paris, so, of course, you can’t walk two metres without tripping over a craftily cooked, scientifically seasoned, devastatingly delicious meal (I’m sure even the dog-food taste great), but Paris is also the second most expensive city in the world (as at March 2015), so the challenge was finding affordable food.

The first night, we walked down a nearby street and picked a brasserie at random. We had the most delicious dinner of rabbit and duck with what must be the best desert in the world. It cost almost 90 Euros per person!

So for lunch the next day, we found a food van on the corner just outside the metro station in Madeleine. They sold crepes, (stuffed pancakes), baguettes and wraps. Again, the food was so delicious, we had tears in our eyes by the last bite. The whole soul-massaging roadside culinary experience, cost us 25 euros in total.

The chef, a short, bald Frenchman called Marcel, nodded and smiled quietly as we rained praise on him for his divine food. The only question he asked in perfect English was, “Where are you from?”. When we said Ghana, all he said was “Ah! Abedi Pele!” 

We went back for dinner that same day. He saw us approaching and smiled. While our crepes cooked on the hot plate, he suddenly asked, “So you don’t chew fufu? You just swallow? How do you know how it tastes”

Just like Nana Aba, we froze. This guy knows about fufu? We asked him if he’d ever been to Ghana and he said “No, I checked on google for ‘popular Ghana food’. I wanted to make you something Ghanaian for your dinner tonight, but I couldn’t find the ingredients”. 

As we walked back to the hotel that night, I couldn’t get our conversation with Marcel out of my mind. he had wanted to make us fufu in his little street food van. He had encountered appreciative customers at lunch, and had wanted to please them so much that he was willing to cook a meal he had never cooked before from a place he had never heard of, just so he could top the experience we had had with him in the afternoon.

Now, it cost him nothing to look up “popular Ghanaian food” on the internet, and, of course, he would have charged us for it, but he would also have blown our minds beyond measure if we had turned up at his van that night and been served with French Fufu. 

My friends, we in Ghana pride ourselves in being THE destination for hospitality, but I have never in my entire life been to a Ghanaian restaurant where the owner has researched me as a customer, to create something unique, just for me. 

You see, customer service is not just about satisfying your customer. It’s about making every experience memorable. It’s about putting in a little extra effort to create a massive personal connection with the people who choose your product or service above all other alternatives.

And make no mistake, we all have customers. Not just those who sell to the public. If you work in a corner office in the ICT department of some ministry, if you have no job, and spend all your time attending interviews, if you’re a student, yet to enter the job market, if you’re a pastor who preaches sermons online – whoever you are, whatever you do, the people willing to pay for the fruits of your knowledge and labour are your customers, and your duty to them is to give them an experience they can never get anywhere else. 

Whatever your business, make it personal. Marcel did, and today, here I am, making a powerful word-of-mouth recommendation of his amazing hospitality to six million people. Please, the next time you’re in Paris, take the Metro to Madeleine, come out at the Eglise exit and look to your left. You’ll see Marcel’s food van. Tell him I sent you, and he just might make you some French Fufu.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and nothing matters more to me than your experience with me today – except your better experience with me tomorrow.