An Open Letter to my Mobile Service Provider

by on Jan.14, 2014, under Business

Kenya at 50, Our Customer Care at Infancy

I have been a student in three major learning institutions in Kenya, at one time or another I have been a customer at all the mobile service providers in Kenya and I have sought services in a number of banks in this nation. The common denominator in these organisations is poor customer service. The tragedy is not that most organisations in our nation have terrible customer service, but that they are not aware of their terrible customer service, hence they are not about to reform any time soon.

As the nation rejoices in being 50 years old, I must say that we have a problem. The major problem is that we do not know that we have a problem. Our customer service is pathetic which in itself an indictment on national excellence or lack of it. Poor customer service is a national tragedy, if I had the capacity I could write to all my service providers and all the institutions where I schooled to request them to serve our beautiful nation differently. I hereby write an open letter to my mobile service provider, and as I do this, note that this same letter is for all the institutions that I have interacted with. Here is my open letter to my mobile service provider.

Dear Airtel,

As a patriot, I believe in telling the truth and the whole truth because this is what is going to improve our businesses and develop our nation. Anyone in my position will be advised to look for another service provider, but I choose to stay and let you know that your conduct is neither good for business nor acceptable anywhere in a civilised community of nations; in fact it is harmful for growth anywhere.

Here is a snippet of my encounters with your services, I have not recorded everything because it will be too much demand on your precious time, but in case you find it too detailed remember this is just part of what your customers experience. So how are they supposed to feel? You may verify these encounters from your records because when I call customer care you say “please note that this call will be recorded for quality proposes”, hence you have the records to compare with my encounters.

On 7th October 2013 at 09:04 before I left the house, I called the customer care to find out what documents I need to have in order to register as a post-paid customer. The customer representative assured me that all I needed was an ID card and money for subscription. Off I went to your shop on the Koinange Street to register. I was shocked that at the shop they demanded that I provide them with my ID, utility bill/bank statement and copy of my PIN certificate, contrary to what the customer care representative had told me. I left the shop to look for the additional documents. Hours later I provided the same and was assured by the shop attendants that it would take at most 48 hours and I would be registered. I thought that would be the last disappointment I was to experience in my quest to be registered, but that was a welcome note to your way of doing business.

48 hours came and went, no registration, no call and so I visited your shop at Koinange Street again (if you have CCTV, you may verify this) to ask the progress of my registration. I was told that it is underway; I asked the attendants a specific question, “what is the challenge with my registration?” Nobody seemed to have a specific answer to my question.  As I left, the shop attendant promised that I will be briefed once he establishes the progress of my registration. From the little interaction I had with the team at the shop, I concluded that I had to fight to be registered. Therefore, I asked for the shop telephone numbers and I was categorical that I did not need the call centre numbers because I had them. I asked for the numbers for the shop on Koinange Street and was given two numbers. On calling, one was never picked the other one was customer care number at the call centre. I wondered whether it is I or your staff with a communication problem. I asked for the shop number but I was given the call centre numbers.

On 15th October 2013 at 15:14 I called the customer care to find out the progress of my registration and as the representative could not establish the progress, the issue was logged into the system and I was promised that it would be solved within 48 hours. This was a promise I had heard before but I took it since my issue had been logged into the system. I assumed that as it is the general practice that everyone more so the supervisors would be concerned if it remains unresolved for too long, but I was wrong. The 48 hours passed and no communication came my way.

On 18th October 2013 at 16:35 I called the customer care, I requested for an explanation why I had not been registered or been told why they did not want me on their network the agent saw that I was persistent for answers then she said that I would be called in 10 minutes by her supervisor to let me know the progress. To date I am still waiting for the 10 minutes to end so that I am called.

On the 19th October 2013, I called and I was advised to visit Airtel Head office at Parkside if I needed any assistance, I informed the agent that one of the reasons why we have internet and mobile phones was to help us not to make unnecessary visits to offices while we can call or send an email. Besides that I had visited the Koinange branch three times against my convenience, while convenience is the key selling point of mobile phone service providers.

On the 21st October 2013 at 15:35, I called the customer care and I asked the agent what was the problem with my registration, the agent told me that they have not received any feedback from Koinange. In my own understanding of customer care representative’s role of satisfying the customer I advised her to pick up the phone and call Koinange. You cannot believe want she told me, “we do not have telephone numbers for Koinange”. I asked her again, “you are saying that you do not have telephone numbers for your shop at Koinange?” Her response was, “yes”. This was too much for me to handle and I just mumbled, “Ok” and I disconnected my phone.

On 24th October 2013 at 12:35 I called customer care and I was promised to be called in a few minutes. The few minutes have not elapsed to date. On the same day at about 7pm I was called by the Koinange branch, that I had not signed my form, hence it had not been processed. Whereas it is my responsibility to sign the form, it is the responsibility of the shop attendant to check the form to make sure that it is properly filled before the client leaves the shop. I went back to the shop and signed the form on 26th October 2013 and I was promised that my application will be expedited.

On 28th October 2013, I received a call from 0732552434 that my form had been received at HQ for registration and as such the registration was being done as we talked. That day ended and I did not receive any notification for registration or any reason why I had not been registered.

On 31st October 2013 at 11:07, I called and the agent informed me to scan a copy of my application form and receipt then I send them to if I am to be registered, I asked myself, ‘ why did I have to leave my form at Koinange?’

Eventually without any notice from your side my prepaid line was disconnected and the post-paid enabled. I thought that there was a network failure on your side, so I did not have network for hours before I figured out that you had registered me. When I inserted the new SIM card it was working. The battle lines changed and now it became difficult to get my usage through your dedicated number 789, and statements do not come as you promised by the 6th of every month, unless I prompt you.

Kindly also note that from 7th January 2014 to 14th January 2014 I have only enjoyed one day of mobile services, all the other days including now I have not been able to call. I hope this will be rectified ASAP.

I am sure you are tired reading long list of my encounters, but you can image how I (the client) was more tired in making these calls and visits and yet my problem was not resolved.

Here are a few questions for your reflections.

  1. Why do you state in your customer care calls that this call will be recorded for quality assurance purposes, yet with all the calls I made nobody noticed that I had a long standing problem? What quality is being assured?
  2. Why did the shop attendant not see that my form was not signed?
  3. Why did it take 17 days to notice that the form is not signed?
  4. Why does each agent have a different version of the truth?
  5. Why is it that nobody was able to explain to me the exact problem that caused my registration delay?
  6. Why does the call centre lack the telephone numbers for the Koinange shop?
  7.  Why is a client’s problem logged into the system not solved in 48 hours as stated?
  8. Why do you promise and do not deliver?

From this interaction with your organisation and employees I got the following impression that you may need to work on.

  1. It appeared to me that your organisation is one organisation but made up of three departments that are very poor in teamwork or it is made up of three different organisations: – the shop, the call centre (customer care) and the HQ. If the latter is the case, it is not a problem; the problem is that each organisation seems to be unaware of what the other organisation is doing. The inefficiency of one organisation should not be passed on to the client. You should solve the clients’ problems without letting the client know the challenges of internal problems. As a young employee of a financial institution where I began my career I was challenged by a client when we had a problem with the new banking system and I could no serve him. He said, “Young man when I brought my money here, you did not tell me that some day when I need my money the system will be down, so do whatever you can do and give me my money.” He added, “I do not want to hear about IT, it was you (me the cashier) that I gave the money therefore give me back my money.” whether the client played ignorant, he was communicating a fundamental principle in customer care: whatever you do in the back office is not the customers’ business, give the customer the service requested.
  2. The Customer care agents and all other people that talk to the clients seem to be under-informed; they have half information and sometimes misleading information. I could suggest that if you have not equipped your agents then do not expose them to clients, you are exposing yourself and the internal inefficiencies.
  3. With the kind of service that I received from you, your competition need not to work to hard beat you and you also need not to blame them for dominance (you should blame your services and customer care agents for your position in the market). The only organisation you should fear is your organisation. Your agents are not playing an A-game and as such this reflects on your market position.

The only reason I have written an open letter is because you are not unique in Kenya as far as poor customer service is concerned. In fact you will be surprised to hear that you are the best among many cases of poor customer service in this nation.

I pray that one day this nation will have excellent customer service and that no client will have to undergo all the above to be served. This is part of my dream for this beloved nation.

If there is any way I can help improve your customer care in the service of our great nation, I will be more than willing to help.

Yours in good customer service



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Atoms of Reason