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I write this letter out of frustration with the service and service delivery of Zamtel’s ADSL service. My latest experience has made me make the decision to terminate my services with this provider, I’m sure Zamtel won’t care to lose one customer, as most businesses in Zambia tend not to care about losing customers – despite the fact that it is cheaper to retain a client than get a new one. However, as customers we have the right to demand that where we are spending our money, we are respected and getting the service we were promised.

zamtel

The company I run has been using Zamtel for the last two years and the service has been less than reliable at best. Sometimes it works, other times you’ll be calling the service center relentlessly trying to get information on why the service is not working.

Recently we moved office from one location to the other (within Lusaka) – I won’t even talk about the process just to get that done, with every person we spoke to telling us a different process. Perhaps Zamtel should consider training their staff properly, or for those staff members that can’t remember their training, a simple handout of the process that can be given to clients would suffice.

So finally we get a new phone number and our ADSL reconnected at our new premises, but then we get told that we’ve got a new account number – I was actually told that when you move offices you are given a new account number. I spoke at length to the person on the other end of the phone about how that didn’t seem to make sense as then your business has multiple accounts, how would you know which was the right account? The man even agreed, and just said that was how it worked and they were actually going through the process of removing inactive accounts for that very reason.

On the 14th of January I accidentally paid our ADSL bill on the old account and on the 16th of January I went back to the Manda Hill branch where I paid to correct the mistake as well as find out why yet again the internet was not working.

I have to admit at this point – 10am, I was already irate because I had been unable to do any work due to the lack of internet connectivity. I had planned my day that required me to be online to deliver on key work.

When I got into the service center at Manda Hill the first thing I did was go to the Customer Service counter, just to be told that there was one line for all desks – even though the other desks were for bill payments. In terms of providing service in a timely manner for your customers, this way of operating does not make sense.

I waited in line patiently behind people who wanted to pay bills (even though there are at least three desks that could service bill payments). Finally I get to the counter to be served by Batuke Kalimukwa (who didn’t want to give me his full name by the way). As any irate customer would do, I complained that Zamtel’s customer service was poor. He didn’t even try to appease me, and just asked what service I needed.

I explained to him our problem and he said that I must have given Zamtel instruction to open a new account – which I didn’t. So he advised me to write a letter to Zamtel asking to close the account. What about the money paid on the account, could that be transferred to my active account? Nope, because it’s a pre-paid account (the inactive one), but I could write to Zamtel to ask for that to be reimbursed (good luck, was his attitude).

So how can you help me because my business can’t function? He could log a complaint in the system. Sigh

I asked him if he could tell me why the internet was so slow this morning. Because we’re on a package that only services five or less computers – ‘It was in the brochure’, he tells me, like I ever received a brochure! Instead I told him that it was one of his colleagues who sold us the K900 a month package, and we were never given the brochure.

Tough. I was told to write a letter to lodge in all my complaints, and address it to the Customer Service Manager. After asking for a name and address to write to, I was told simply to address it to the Customer Service Manager, Zamtel.

Pray tell why there is no name for the Customer Service Manager? What does that say about transparency?

Finally I asked if he could tell me if there was a fault on the network as only three computers were connected to the network so by his own admission, the ADSL package we’re on should work. No, he couldn’t tell me because his machine was only for payments. Hence the reason I wanted to go to the customer service desk in the first place – but then again, who knows if she would have that information to hand either.

At this point, in the middle of my complaints and queries, Batuke’s phone rings, which he answers in front of me, with no apology or concern that I had not yet finished trying to get a solution for my problem – though I guess at this point, it was clear that he was unable to offer a solution.

As a Zambian, I am frustrated that a company we in effect own, treats its customers, it’s Zambian customers so poorly. But I also don’t believe that we should reward bad services with our business, how else do we let companies know it’s not ok? I have given Zamtel enough chances, and now I believe it is time to move my account.

Processes and systems are good when they work, but as human beings we should have enough intelligence (or just common sense) to be able to operate in a manner that uses common sense, this is what sets us apart from computers. But my experience with this person at Zamtel was his inability to problem solve and offer workable solutions. Perhaps Zamtel doesn’t empower its employees to take initiative or to think, when today’s environment demands that we do attend to client’s needs, and sometimes that means thinking outside of the processes to keep your client happy and to keep them with you.

The service provider I went to after my Zamtel experience, to get a quote for their services, greeted me with a smile and was able to answer all my questions. Her pleasant manner and putting my concerns first (she even asked me if it was ok for her to answer her phone when her maid called), put me at ease and made me want to switch to them.

Zamtel can not just rely on its affordable price strategy, but to actually deliver on the service to match – and this isn’t just the service of its products, but of its people too. Gone are the days when anyone needs to be held to ransom due to lack of choice. Zamtel would do well to also remind its staff that their attitude, their work ethics, their ability to do the job ultimately is a reflection of the Zamtel brand. The service I got today tells me that Zamtel is an arrogant, archaic giant that does not value its clients. I hope for Zamtel’s sake that I am the only customer who feels this way or has had such an experience with its representatives.

I hate to write such a negative headline about my birth country, but lying doesn’t really help anyone does it? Unless it’s one of those lies you tell so that you don’t hurt someone’s feelings, but as I’m hoping for my country to progress, it makes no sense to sugar coat the issues. The reality is that customer service in this country is not only bad, it’s appalling. Actually it’s just non-existent.

My friend, who moved back to Zambia about 18 months ago, told me that she spent the first six months angry, largely as the result of the terrible customer care. I laughed at first but by the end of the long weekend (Tuesday), I realised that we can’t sit back and continue to allow this to happen, and that we need to seriously start speaking out and demanding better service.

The problem is that generally people accept the poor service and complain among their friends or anyone else who will listen except maybe the manager. People have recounted many examples of shocking services – an internet providers customer care person hanging up on a client, a waitress demanding an explanation for what bad attitude she was giving a client, a sales person telling off a client for telling her to get off her personal call, and just told the counter person asking me if i can’t see that she’s given my three napkins (i paraphrase) and the list goes on, but still nothing changes.

Zambia has launched a rebrand for its tourist industry with the tagline Let’s Explore Zambia, it is a great viable opportunity for our economy other than focussing on a depreciating mineral like copper, but who wants a tourist destination that will have you pulling out your hair as a result of poor and frustrating service. It just spoils the beauty of a place when you get annoyed by bad service. Rude people does not endear you to any place.

After my annoyance today, I’ve decided that for sure I can no longer keep quiet and just take it, if it means I will continuously have to be calling the manager or explaining to the person in question why their attitude and/or service is poor then that is what I will do. It is unacceptable in this day and age for people to have to be treated badly by people working in the service industry – if you don’t want to smile, be friendly or even talk to people, then don’t work in the service industry!

It really is the small things that make a difference, but until we, as the customers, realise the power we have and start using it to demand better (really just acceptable) services! And this is what I have decided to do, one person really can make a difference (as long as others follow suit!). I’ll let you know how it works out.