Monday, October 17, 2011

Customer favours

I was worried recently. After my first post I realized that my intended 2nd blogpost would not be ready and would be too long. As a result, I actually had to start brain storming on what to write about. In the beginning it was hard (lots of demands on my time and impressive but divided intellect). Then as the days moved on things came up:
  • The passing of Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie and their effect on the tech and business world
  • The woes of RIM
  • The new iPhone and matching software upgrade
  • The 48th Ghana - Nigeria match
  • And last but not least: Lessons in how to buy a car in Ghana
As opposed to my previous state, I had lots of ideas and was still trying to formulate words and anecdotes to match. But things can and do change, and as I sit in this air-conditioned lobby an hour in being entertained by a tank of fish, I found a nice topic for my next post. Customer favours. Or as it's called here, customer service.

The guilty party today (and am sure you readers can put in any other company name and still get the same result) is Vodafone Ghana. For a telecoms provider my problem is simple enough: the internet connection you gave me isn't working, fix it. I should mention that I made this complaint over a quarter of a year ago.  To the point where, the staff and technicians at the office in my area knew me by face and name.  One mention and they knew where I was and that I had a problem "again".
He gave up downloading his update
Yes, I'm sure you have all been here before and have had even worse experiences than my sitting here entertained by plankton.
I'll buy the Blu-Ray Directors Cut. 2 copies
Honestly I wouldn't mind if this was Auntie Akwele's bar and the reason I wasn't served was because the barman was having lunch. Not only could I slap him for my entertainment (and possibly to register my displeasure) but you really don't expect them to know any better. However a company that prides itself on being able to provide for so many customers worldwide doesn't have that excuse.
Evilness isn't an excuse
Allow me to reach into my knowledge bank and use what 3.5 years of marketing study has grudgingly taught me. The Pareto principle in the context of business states that 80% of profits comes from 20% of your customer base. The next thing to note is the principle also explains why it's more expensive for a company to get new customers than to retain the ones they've already "won", that is 80% of the promotion resources only bring in 20% of the target. I know bugger all about business studies in Senior High to know but this is taught and HAMMERED into your head when you are in any business school of any university.
Marketing 101: how to make money from customers. University of buullu, any beach in Accra (nails not included)
Whoever is running the show here has not only got that basic 1st degree but at least a masters or even a phd. And his subordinates are still way better than I am. So unless there is a course in how to bend over and take your customers at the masters level, how is this happening?
Marketing 709: Putting the customer in his place
This isn't just Vodafone. I can't for the life of me think of any service here that SERVICES it's customer base without massively messing up in someway and not trying to fix it like they mean if. Except maybe Multichoice running DSTV but to be honest, there are few ways you can mess that up.
Losing the license to show the EPL is s start
Recently I've ported from MTN because it would be nice for a mobile telecommunications company to allow me to communicate. Airtel work reasonably at least but have taken to spamming my message inbox with their offers, and I can totally remember when I said to them, "Yes, I would love to receive messages from you guys over and over again about deals, offers and instructions I will need, want or don't need without a way to turn it off."
Insert corporate overlordship here
I honestly wonder if it's ineptitude, a refusal to provide true customer service or they are just slow. Take an example; Now most if not all of the mobile telecoms providers have what they call colour ringtones, where if you call a number instead of the tone of a phone ringing what we get is a song (speech or prayer) selected by the person we are ringing. This is 57 shades of annoying because it inevitably means that alot of the time you're going to have a song you HATE blaring into your ear while the person you're calling doesn't answer, this isn't my issue though. At GIMPA, this semester I share a class with MTN marketing officers and they brought a scenario where customers call in complaining that when they call a number expecting a discount only to find too late that their call time has expired due to the number porting to another network, and they were flummoxed for solutions. So I offered that instead of wasting our time with colour ringtones, why don't they play audio warnings to callers when they call ported numbers. You'd think I told them that they were guaranteed passage to heaven and yet I was at a loss to explain why a multi million dollar company with all of it's well educated and knowledgeable workforce couldn't think to implement this. No one can make the point that they don't know the numbers that ported or where to. When I ported, MTN called me a week later to ask why. Daixy had an MTN number call her Airtel number to ask her to port to the former.

It took a few days to write this post partly because I spent a lot of time driving (and inevitably cussing like a marine chasing a roll of biscuits on a storm ravaged navy boat) and mostly because I was waiting to be proven wrong. At the beginning of the post the vodafone rep promised to call me by close of day that day. It's been 5 days (Saturday and Sunday included). Heck. Before I turned up to their office (this time) I wrote a letter of complaint months earlier.
By now it's in the marketing department
It's not just telecoms. Obii recently had this experience. Jrkaa had this experience. I can guarantee that you all have had at least 3 experiences. Banks, public transport, etc. And we call ourselves a Christian country? In the bible it is written; Luke 6:31, "Do to others as you would have them do to you". You can forget that, because it's not in any business book (of which there are thousands) but it is a case of what goes around comes around.  That's the nature of services. If companies that offer these services in some manner (whether directly or as a product support) fail to follow this simple principle, it worries me that they may actually think that I leave the comfort of my home or the importance of my occupation to come to their office to be entertained for hours on end by a tank of floating lunch.
But who wouldn't want to?


  1. This post is both hilarious and so point on. I could tell you stories.:) about Vodafone, MTN, Airtel, Enterprise insurance, banks and virtually every other place i have had the misfortune of waiting for more than 10 minutes, including job interviews.
    I hate to think bad customer service is ingrained; to fii akwa! God forbid

  2. I do believe they all have a secret course titled: "How to totally bamboozle customers into thinking you actually care about their problems while totally upping their frustration levels without batting an eyelash 101". Personally, I have had experiences with clueless, moronic and utterly rude customer favours personnel on a regular basis. Not too long ago I had Tigo on my ipad for data only. I use their data packages and my last reload and package activation was an epic fail! Not only did they subtract the correct amount(20ghc), the transaction did not end with me being credited with the data package. It took customer service 3 days, 8 non toll free calls of at least 8 minutes each, much head bashing and mumbled swearing on my part to get then to admit to there being a problem. It took another 10 days, more calls and 1 visit to their HQ to get it resolved. I sold off my ipad and chewed my Tigo sim 3 days later. I am sure there are a few(vanishingly few) customer service people who deserve that title, but I for one have not met such thus far in Ghana.