Sunday, May 28, 2006

MTS-Customer care or customer scare

  (Off the cuff, Nigerian Tribune, Thursday June 1, 2006)Keeping customers satisfied, obviously, is the hardest part of the business of telecoms. An operator with a flawless customer care culture is yet to be born in Nigeria. From mobile to fixed service, the operators are all still struggling to come near the world standard.

But I sometimes think the operators might have found it easier to achieve a commendable customer care practice if they had opened shop elsewhere. A flawless customer care tradition is hard to achieve in Nigeria. Some irreparable damage has been done to the culture of civility of Nigerians by long years of military rule. Add to that the daily frustrations that characterize our existence in Nigeria and you will understand the troubles of the companies.

There very simply are more rude people about in Nigeria than polite, cultured ones. And when it is time for entrepreneurs to hire people into their front offices, call centres, tech support centres, the odds are stacked against them getting people with the right attitude and disposition.

Customer care is a people thing. If you have the right people, you have it. If you don't, you don't. It does not matter how much investment you have made into technology.

Take MTS for instance. The new office of this up and coming operator at No 9 Kingsway road, Ikoyi, will blow your mind away. Inside the perimeter fence, the view is breathtaking. And when you make it into the customer care centre, you would just love to become a customer of MTS right away, regardless of how many other operators you are a subscriber to already.

The technology, decor, ambience and smart dressing of staff compare very well with what you would find in a similar outfit in London, US or any other part of the developed world. And a porter opens the door for you too!

But that is where it all ends, regrettably. You walk in and see all the colourfully dressed, beautiful ladies behind flat screen PC monitors who are as impersonal as your neighbourhood watchdog, probably just as vicious too when provoked, I don't know.

Everybody is busy; no one is interested in you. You find on the right an array of very comfortable, indeed very inviting cushion chairs, but your brain tells you that with no system of tracking new arrivals in place, taking a seat may mean that you will be there in the midst of the seated gentlemen for eternity without your needs being met. Everybody is just too busy to notice any new customer.

So you opt to stand just in front of one of the girls, who by the way is the youngest and one of the most beautiful. Not that this has anything to do with your decision, anyhow. She is on the phone, transacting what must be official business from the way she is carrying on. So you wait quietly, taking in the pleasant sight. After a while, you reconsider your decision. She doesn't appear like she will be finishing that conversation in this life time, so you try to shift to the next lady in line, who is stacking boxes of phone terminals beside her. You try to catch her attention, but she is too busy. There are still many more boxes to be stacked and checked against their entry, see?

You cast a look at the three other girls. Just don’t go there. These ones are dashing between the inner offices and their desks, checking out papers and filling forms and, well, dashing back into the inner offices.

A pretty woman who, who must be the top gun in this department can be seen from the glass wall working hard. She also dashes out once in a while and navigate what has now become a small crowd of eager customers and returns to her desk. You are tempted to ask her a few questions herself, but her carriage and speed show how seriously busy she must be. This work is killing her, see?

Then, the first lady on the phone surprisingly finishes and finally, graciously entertains your questions. You ask for five minutes to decide on what service to sign on for. When you return, she is on her feet, gathering some sheets of paper. It cannot possibly be closing time. You look around for a wall clock to confirm. Yes you are right. By the time you look back she is out of her desk and cat walking towards the exit. No word from her even as she passes very close to you on her way out. It turns out that she has gone to get more phones. "Please, give me a moment to get more phones" would have been normal. A smile and "Could you kindly take a seat there while I get more phones" would be world standard. Attending to me right away since all I needed was data service and going on later to get the phones would have been excellent customer care.

You turn to her neighbour and she is on the phone now. You are there looking at each other for about 10 minutes but you are not too sure she is seeing you. Finally, she finishes and says "Yes?" So she sees you! Thank goodness. But ‘Yes?’ That is not a language of a customer care person. Another thing, it would have mattered little to the MTS official at the other end of the phone line, if she had interrupted the long conversation and said to a standing customer, "Please I will be with you shortly". But it would have mattered much to the standing customer, cause then he would know she was conscious of his presence and appreciated it.

But you are happy you finally get a chance to say that you have this money you want to give to MTS in exchange for a service. She doesn’t appear particularly thrilled at this prospect, but it seemed there was nothing else she could do but to grudgingly facilitate the process. She wasn’t exactly frowning, but she was close to it as to make no difference. Come to think of it, none of these beautiful girls look cheerful. What is the use of a beautiful girl with a permanent scowl on her face. It is probably the work.

And that is the trouble. Customer care is not the papers and the computers. The work is the customers. Everything else is secondary. In Nigeria, the opposite is the case. Customer service workers are too busy with the paperwork and hardware. The customers distract them from concentrating on work!

1 comment:

O., CPC said...

Customer Care is a department in Nigeria, not a culture. MTS is not alone in that nonsense. CPC and others are to be more vigilant.