Friday 22 September 2006

Television is compulsory

Why do people make stuff up? Why do service providers go out of their way to make life so completely difficult? Do they actually want us to give them our money? In particular do they want foreign investors to give them their money?

I was at a business function a couple of weeks ago at which Iqbal Ebrahim, the President of BOCCIM spoke. He said a number of things that I think really made a lot of sense but he joked about the barriers we put up sometimes to foreigners. He jokingly suggested that if Bill Gates had come to Botswana 30 years ago saying he wanted to found a company called Microsoft we would have turned him back at the border saying he was offering nothing to the economy. This is the same Bill Gates who has since given truly staggering amounts of his own money to Botswana in the fight against the pandemic.

Well, this inspired us to behave badly. Yes, again.

We’ve been mystery shopping.

Actually this is one of the things our company does for a living. Companies come to us and pay us to pretend to shop with them and then to report back to senior management on how good (or how bad) the service they give can be. We’ve done this for all sorts of private companies, and even for places like restaurants and supermarkets. As well as being sometimes very depressing it can also be very funny.

However, because we are naturally naughty we sometimes do it just for fun. We call up an organisation pretending to be a potential customer and see what sort of service we get.

This week one of our team called up a certain bank, one you’ve all heard of, one of the big ones. Our caller pretended to be the wife of an expatriate who had just arrived in Botswana to work in a very exalted and impressive position in Government, in short someone who no doubt has lots of money to dispose of and wanted to lend it to a bank so they could bet it on horses or whatever it is banks do with our money.

OK, that bit about betting it on horses was an exaggeration but when you think about it, it’s not so far from the truth.

So what sort of service did our fictitious expatriate lady get? Well, not so good. It turns out that unless you have a Multichoice account you can’t have a bank account. Yes, that’s true apparently. This bank requires you to watch DSTV before you can bank with them. Well, that’s what the guy from the bank said. Shame they don’t offer to pay you for the DSTV account though.

It seems that unless you can provide this bank with a utility bill, I guess like water or power, but this guy just mentioned Multichoice, you simply can’t have a bank account. Despite offering a copy of a lease, endless ID documents like passports and CASH to open the account it’s impossible it seems.

Now before you think I’ve gone completely off the deep end I DO recognise that banks have to exercise some caution when opening accounts. Of course they have to establish the identity of potential customers. We can’t have Osama Bin Laden just wandering into a bank in the Main Mall and opening an account. Or George W Bush for that matter.

In fact the law demands that banks ensure the identity of the potential customer. The Banking Act says that banks may only open bank accounts “when they are satisfied, having acted with due diligence and with reasonableness, that they have established the identity of the person in whose name the funds or securities are to be credited or deposited”. So far so good and perfectly reasonable.

Nothing there about the compulsory TV though is there?

Perhaps they just need the Multichoice bill to prove where you live? Well, maybe except your Multichoice bill just has your postal address, not your residential address. It’s not like they can use it to send in the Deputy Sherriff is it? The lease however DOES say exactly where you live so surely that’s much more useful?

The message from this particular bank seemed actually to be quite simple. It was something like “Sorry, we simply can’t be bothered, you’re too much trouble”.

Oh and I forgot to mention, we record all these calls so perhaps that can be one of the first podcasts we put on our website!

So anyway, what sort of treatment would the next Bill Gates get if he came to Botswana planning to start a new company?

Well, by the time you read this we will have found out. We will have phoned all the banks to see what sort of service someone bringing huge amounts of money into Botswana receives. Can they open an account quickly, offering suitable services and all within a few days? Can they, in fact, respond to an important customer’s needs in the way an important customer would want?

Because if they can’t, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Read this column next week to find out!

This week’s stars!

  • Judith at Moviemax Bonnington for going beyond the call of duty
  • Shaula and Haranka at BTC for taking personal responsibility for a problem and getting it sorted
  • Kabelo at BTC yet again for just making things happen. Can this man do no wrong?
  • Marilyn at Multichoice for being really friendly and helpful
  • Famida at Stocker Fleetword Bird for really efficient and quick service
  • The staff at Mahogony’s restaurant for fantastic service

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