Tardy customer care services persist in telecoms sector
On February 14, 2018, Chibuzor Aginam, a subscriber to the four major networks in the country had a running battle with one of the operators, MTN.
On that particular day, Aginam had dialed the customer care line, 180 of MTN to lodge a complaint that he couldn’t call out despite still having as much as N700 airtime left on his telephone line; he was put on hold for over 10 minutes.
Recounting his ordeal, he said though the customer care agent, who put her name as Jessica apologised for the delay in picking his call and promised to resolve the matter as fast as possible.
Jessica, according to him, claimed the challenge was a ‘machine error’, “but despite her promise, nothing was done. I waited for another 72 hours, still couldn’t call out, until I had to recharge N500 before I could call out. This baffled me because there was no lien on my account that I am aware of.”
The same fate befell Jumoke Akinnifesi on April 12, 2018, a staunch Globacom subscriber. Her complaints centred on frequent data depletion.
Akinnifesi said whenever she tried to reach the customer service representative through the company’s call centre lines, 121 or 200, she had to call repeatedly before an agent attended to her.
Lamenting on Facebook, Osogbo-based 9Mobile subscriber, Ishola Badaru, said: “the network take your airtime at will, won’t allow you to get to their customer care and after struggling to get through, they will give you a response like our network is down, we can’t find a solution to it. Call back!”
Badaru described this scenario as ‘very annoying’. He had since ported!
An Airtel subscriber, Nnamdi Eke, said it was very tough to reach the customer care agents of Airtel through the 121 or 111 codes. “My experiences have been that if I heard of any exciting offers, like the 4G service and put a call through to 121, the response will be fast, but whenever I want to complain about certain illegal deductions made to my account, “it is that time the line becomes difficult to get through to. Something is seriously wrong with that network.”
Indeed, like Aginam, Akinnifesi, Badaru and Eke, millions of subscribers in Nigeria had a running battle with their network providers in 2018, which they hoped won’t be repeated in 2019.
Interestingly, November 2018, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) statistics put active telecoms subscribers at 169 million with 120 per cent teledensity.
MTN, the largest operator in the country with 66.9 million customers, controlled 40 per cent market share; Globacom, with 43.3 million customers, had 26 per cent of the market.
Airtel with 43.1 million customers, as at November 2018, controlled 25 per cent of the Nigerian market, while 9Mobile with nine per cent share serviced 15.4 million subscribers.
The Guardian visits to some of the customer care centres of the mobile network operators (MNOs) confirmed subscribers’ woes. A particular visit to one of the centre located on Allen Avenue, Ikeja, the number of customers that came to lay complaints was much, the hall was jam-packed on that day. To make matters worse, the available seats were not adequate to contain the customers. Those, who couldn’t wait, had to take numbers to come back later.
Market watchers are of the view that the situation might get worst this year and this might make the MNOs to lose some subscribers in porting activities.
Earlier in the year, statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which had declared the previous year, 2017, ‘Year of the Consumer’ showed that subscribers in the country registered over 13,880 abuses against the MNOs in the first four months of 2018.
Analysis of the statistics showed that customers registered 6,120 (44 per cent) complaints against MTN. Airtel was second, with 3,143 (23 per cent), while Globacom was third with 2, 885 (21 per cent) of the complaints. 9Mobile got 1,705 complaints, representing 12 per cent.
Billing issues accounted for 7, 046 (51 per cent).This was followed by Value Added Service issues with 1, 897 (14 per cent); SMS issues accounted for 1, 104 (8 per cent); Call set-up challenges recorded 1, 189 (9 per cent).
The billing-related complaints include deductions from activations of unsolicited VAS and telecom promotions and products; over deduction (inaccurate charges); charges for unsuccessful calls and undelivered SMS; and charges for caller ring back tune not downloaded, among others.
Speaking with The Guardian on poor customer services, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said customer relations experience will receive more attention in 2019.
Adebayo disclosed that the industry is working with the NCC on Customer Care code of practice with agreeable measureable key performance indicators been set, adding: “A lot of work is going on in this regard and we are confident that it will translate to better customer relations experience across the various networks.”
The ALTON President noted that despite the challenges of the operating environment, there was never a day of telecommunications outage in any part of the country. He stressed that the industry recorded significant improvement in overall Quality of Services (QoS) and customer Experience as evident by the reduction in the number of porting.
His counterpart at the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, agreed that one of the most glaring challenges and a constant one for that matter was issues in achieving QoS to a level that consumers feel that they are getting value for their money.
Teniola observed that telecommunications in Nigeria is now being viewed as a utility and a basic right of Nigerians. “So, with that in mind, we may need to develop a cohesive system that provides our members with detailed consumer and service data that identifies patterns of usage and focuses on areas where consumers feel that service rendered is poor.”
The ATCON President informed that NCC ran a lot of awareness workshops across the country and “we believe that those still need to be continued alongside members’ improved Customer Care Service. Culturally, we as a country need to imbibe a friendlier and effective customer service industry that not only educates the consumer but is better equipped to be more transparent.
“Introduction of a holistic Customer Engagement Management (CEM) in conjunction with Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM) already deployed can assist in improving the level perceived. NCC also has some ideas around how they wish to assist in this measure; however, we caution that QoS also touches on the ability of the consumer fully understanding the constraints and limitations in our operating environment.”
In one of her presentations in the course of 2018, former President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Mrs. Mary Uduma, noted that service providers in Nigeria are yet to recognise subscribers as ‘King’.
Uduma, in her paper, titled: Enhancing Consumer Satisfaction and Growth Through Service Delivery, said operators must be sensitive to changing consumer requirements; define services required; ensure quality service provisioning; create awareness of available services, and appropriate engagement with service provider.
According to her, MNOs needed to enhance consumer growth and satisfaction to improve competitiveness in industry; builds trust between industry players; attracts investments; fosters innovation and productivity; revenue floor will increase, and it would smoothen regulatory regime.
The former NiRA president said good service delivery remains a viable solution because it leads to better socio-economic values; improved GDP; increase ICT adoption; promote connected markets and have positive impact on other sectors’ service delivery.
For operators to achieve excellent service delivery and ensure consumer satisfaction, Uduma advised MNOs to ensure and guarantee the welfare of their employees. She urged them to know their consumers (KYC); engage in regular consumer outreach and rewards, and incorporate integrated service delivery platforms.
According to her, implementing consumer feedback mechanism and ensuring customer trust and loyalty would drive in more subscribers.
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