For a longtime now I have learnt to be patient with our mobile network companies in Zambia. I have to breathe in, breathe out just to control my temper. Somehow, they brilliantly know exactly how to tick my buttons and last week they pushed me to the edge. If there was a scale of incompetence and pathetic customer service in this country, our mobile networks would win the gold medal. The customer service of the networks that I have experienced particularly Airtel and MTN are absolutely a nightmare.
I have no idea what is happening in this country; it appears that the consumer’s voice does not matter. In fact, it is like we do not exist at all. Last week, was one of the worst customer services I have experienced since I started using Airtel. For reasons known only to them, I could not call or text despite having airtime. I could not call customer care service because I could not go through in the first place. What is the point of customer care if you cannot get through? I had to bombard the Airtel Zambia Facebook page over and over just to get a response. They kept telling me that they valued me as a customer and would solve my problem; it took them five days before I could finally make a call. However, at the point of writing this, I still cannot text using my Airtel line, and I have just given up all together. I believe it is not worth my energy anymore.
If I could make a calculated guess that they are having a problem with their network. However, what is so annoying is that despite constantly irritating us with promotional messages they do not have the decency to apologise to customers that they are experiencing some challenges. Mine is by no means an isolated case, all you have to do is look at their Facebook page, and you will see the number of similar complaints. This interruption in their network is no trivial matter as lack of communication is costing business people money, vital information cannot be passed on time or who needs the added stress of an incompetent customer service.
For the amount of marketing that mobile networks undertake, you would think the same effort is being put in their customer service. It takes approximately 30-45 minutes just to get through. By the time the person on the other side answers you would have cooked, watched Isidingo and taken a nap before the customer service operator picks up. When I complained about the time that it takes to get through, one MTN customer service personnel answered,
“Understandably with all the calls we are receiving.” I think she even rolled her eyes as she said this. Such an appalling response infuriated me and I gave her a good lecture. I am not one to use French words.
If mobile networks are failing to run their customer service departments then they are better off outsourcing them to other companies that can run it for them properly. They are even better saying that they have got no customer service department because it is clearly not serving its function. You actually have to pray that you never have to call customer service. The people we have substituted customer service with are our friends, hoping that maybe they have the solutions to our questions. It is only in the event that they too are clueless do I ever think of the tortuous task of calling customer service. The regulatory body, Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) need to show their teeth more often. After all it is not as if they are unaware of these problems, they use the very same networks. They need to take a stronger stance against mobile network providers who are making poor customer service a habit.
Through my experience this past week, I have learnt to stop living in denial. I admit that Airtel sucks. Mobile networks need to understand that they are in business because of the customers they have. They should never take them for granted and think that they can continue providing mediocre service and expect the customers to remain loyal. Small things such as quality customer service make a huge difference in a customer’s experience. They should not for one second be deceived by the millions of subscribers they have, patience is not a virtue all have. Until our mobile network providers learn this, they might as well call their customer care service, Customer Careless Service.