In an apparent drive to respond to customer queries efficiently, many service providers in the country have set up call centres or faults reporting points. In most cases, there are designated numbers for particular areas which are made public so that customers can easily call and be attended to.
Such organisations with call centres or faults reporting points include almost all telecommunications service providers, the water boards, some commercial banks and the sole power supplier, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom).
This is a good initiative. One that gives customers hope and confidence that they will never walk alone whenever they are experiencing a problem in terms of service delivery.
However, like many good initiatives in this world of ours, there are some flaws in the way some of the customer hot-lines are handled. Whereas in some organisations the customer is treated as the king or queen they are supposed to be, there are some officers handling or mishandling the customer service hot-lines.
For example, some officers behave like they are doing the caller (the customer) a favour in handling their query. Then, there are hot-lines where customers are left at the mercy of prerecorded messages to go about solving their problems. I do not subscribe to this one-size-fit-all approach to customer service.
I mentioned Escom among service providers with customer call centres or faults units across the country. However, from posts on social network platforms such as Facebook and indeed from general interaction with electricity users, some of the responses leave a lot to be desired.
Now, this is very unfortunate in that electricity is the most sensitive of the services provided. Careless handling of any connections can easily lead to deaths from fire and indeed loss of property. Take the case of one lady in Blantyreâ€™s Chirimba Township for example, who reportedly called the â€˜Escom Faultsâ€™ in her area to report a loose connector line between her house and the Escom mains, a development that was causing fire sparks, among others. She claimed to have been told, tongue-in-cheek, that: “Tibwera mukachita mwayi madam [Pray that the gods smile on you so that we can attend to your problem].” Really? Days later, according to her Facebook posting, she was still “unlucky” to have her fault attended to.
I had a similar incident at my house a couple of years back. I called the â€˜Escom Faultsâ€™ in my area who assured me they will be in. Two hours later, at 10pm, they were nowhere to be seen. I then called a friend who holds some senior position at Escom and, to my surprise, within 10 minutes, the same â€˜faultsâ€™ crew was now calling me, asking for directions (that is despite earlier giving them the same directions) and they solved the problem. I thought that was very unfortunate as not all Escom customers have “inside” connections to be assisted with urgency as it happened to me.
It is my plea to service providers to handle faults with urgency. Treat all calls as emergencies. That way, service delivery will be improved and revenues enhanced.
Perhaps it is also time service providers asked customers to vote for best customer care executives to improve efficiency and set some best practices within our setting!