Respect for the hope and yearnings of customers based on brand promises is not a cardinal principle of business operation for many Nigerian businesses, not to talk of it being part of their core values. The trite sayings that ‘the customer is king’ and ‘the customer is always right’ are completely non-existent in the realities and business dictionary of many of our leading businesses in Nigeria. It is interesting to note that even companies, whose customer services were strong out Nigeria, tend to lower the standard here.
I think three reasons are responsible for service providers’ woeful performance in respect of brand promises and their pathetically poor attitude to the compliant of customers in Nigeria:
1. Ignorant Customers: a lot of Nigerians are ignorant and passive about their rights as consumers. I have found myself, countless times in situations, where I was seriously chastised or criticised by fellow customers when I tried to speak up against customer-unfriendly policies of service providers, which affected all of us. These days I have learnt to speak for myself.
2. Comatose Regulatory Bodies: the regulatory bodies that are responsible for holding service providers in critical areas of the economy responsible are not alive to their responsibilities. It is either they are compromised or ignorant.
3. It is not in the character or culture of an average Nigerian company to give their best in the best interest of the customer. For them fulfilling their brand promises and responding with an excellent attitude to the complaint of customers is not a critical success factor for their business. They benefit immensely from the ignorance of the customer and they are committed to doing all to be in the good book of the regulatory bodies. As far as they are concerned, as long as the foregoing variables are intact, it can be business as usual.
It is against this backdrop that I share with you my experience with using the Elisalat Blackberry Services. Let me say upfront that my experience with Etisalat is an index of the general disposition of telecommunication service providers in Nigeria. The truth of the matter is that their services can in some critical moments nightmarish.
Here are the particulars of errors in respect of my use of the Elisalat Blackberry Services:
Not proactive: I was on the monthly 3,000 plan for 6 months. I never received an alert informing me of when my validity will expire. I am just yanked off without notice once I don’t remember.
Slow response: in the month of January I was deactivated on the 19th. I reloaded my phone immediately and my credit was taken. It took 3 days, more than 25 calls, speaking to 2 supervisors and a threat to return my credit for the service to be restored.
A Disorganised or ineffective Database System: a lot of times I call to find out the expiration of my validity. The response is in most cases, ‘our system is down now, and we cannot access your data. Please call back in one hour.’ I tell them,’is it my fault that your system is down and you can’t get me the details I need at the moment. I think you should apologise and make it a point of duty to return my call.’ That advice never makes sense to them. They always insist you call back. In most cases when you call back, the information you need is not yet accessible and you are asked to call back again.
In many cases, my credit is yanked off without using it. I call and call and I get frustrated and leave the matter.
The last straw: after I suffered for many days to get my Blackberry Service restored on the 22nd of January, I woke up this morning, February 14, 2012 to receive a text message that my Blackberry Service had been deactivated. I called Customer Service at about 9.00AM and I was told that I was on 1,500 plan. I corrected the agent that I was on 3,000 monthly plan. The agent went further to say that I deactivated my Blackberry Services myself at about 4.30AM today. I told her that was not possible. I informed her that I went to bed at about 11.00PM yesterday and woke up at about 6.00AM this morning and that nobody was awake in my house at that time. I further explained that why would I deactivate my line. I told her that the phone is not a toy that one fiddles with and would lose consciousness of what he was doing on it. All my explanation fell on the deaf ear of the agent. She insisted on her position and promised they would call me back. I told her that it was not in their character to call back but she assured me.
At about 2.30PM, I had not received a call from them as I predicted. I called again and spoke to Agent Beatrice. She assured me the problem will be fixed. In another I hour or thereabout, I called again and spoke with Agent Benson. I told him my complaint and insisted I wanted to speak with a superior.
He transferred me to a supervisor known as Stella. She listened to me and her response was that I was the one who deactivated my phone. I rejected that fact. I explained to her as I had explained to her surbodinate in the morning. To my amazement, the supervisor did not only stand her grounds, she insisted in forcing it down my already bleeding throat. She kept saying I should listen to her and I would say ‘go and I’m listening to you.’ Then she would begin again by saying that her records show that I deactivated my Blackberry service myself. I informed her that how much can she trust her data considering the fact that one of her surbodinates told me this morning that I was on a 1,500 plan when in actual fact I’m on a 3,000 plan. Nothing made sense to her.
From our conversation, it became clear to me that what she meant by saying I should listen to her was that I should accept the fact that I was responsible for the deactivation. I rejected that and she got angry and said to me, ‘please let us handle this thing in a matured way.’ To this I responded, ‘I take personal exception to your last statement. Are you saying by rejecting a wrong assumption of your organisation, I’m being immature?’ To that she did not say I single word of apology. I repeated my displeasure and she repeated her position.
It is instructive of her anti-customer disposition that we spoke for more than 10 minutes and her primary concern was not to solve my problem, save my precious time and time of her company. Her only concern was to force me to agree that I deactivated my services myself. Since she couldn’t get me to do that our discussion was deadlocked.It is 8.04PM almost 6 hours since I spoke to Supervisor Stella, my Blackberry Services are still unjustly suspended. I am yet to receive a call on the state of affairs. I have obviously
I looked at the situation and I asked myself, what kind of customer service traning did Supervisor Stella receive and from where? What should be her primary concern when a customer complains, is it to prove her point or to solve the problem? Let us now agree that the customer is trying to be funny, is it her training to give up helping the customer and stand her grounds? How can this kind of individual be a supervisor of agents with this kind of poor and pathetic attitude to customers? If an arbiter, in person of a supervisor could display this kind of unprofessional attitude, what should we expect from her subordinates? Too many questions to be asked. I leave the rest to you.
What I cannot leave to you is the decision to take a walk from the Blackberry Services of Elisalat. I think the attitude of Supervisor Stella, being a senior officer, who knew her call was being monitored (as we are always told) but still laboriously threw caution into the whirlwind is representative of the customer service policy of Etisalat. I feel, it is nothing but adding huge insult upon a septic injury, for a service provider, who fails in its brand promises and the customer is insulted for complaining that his business is being hindered as a result of the negligence of the service provider.
I think, even if every Nigerian decide to lay down their lives for Elisalat, I deserve the right to decide the next line of action for my personal peace and economic wellness. Lastly, respect for dignity of human person demands that I take a leave from where I’m dishonured.
In view of the foregoing I announce my departure from the Blackberry Services of Etisalat. Who is Taiwo Akinlami? What does he take himself for? What does he think his departure would do Elisalat? He must be deluded. Well, those may be a valid thinking, but they are not valid enough to rob my social conscience of its sanctity in taking a principled position in its (social conscience) defence. In respect of this position, time does not need to tell…My social conscience has also judged it and it does not need the validation of time.
I salute the courage of the likes of Supervisor Stella. I also sympathize with the customers she has tormented in the past and will still torment in the future. More grease to her elbow in area of customer deservices…oh sorry, customer service.