Friday, 26 August 2011

Customer Don't Care

Several friends and colleagues have been complaining bitterly recently about the failure of their internet connections. Serious people, trying their best to run serious businesses have been deprived of what is now an essential set of business tools. They’ve had no email and, much more importantly, they’ve haven’t been able to surf the internet, they haven’t been able to tweet and, catastrophically, appallingly, horrifically they’ve been separated from their Facebook pages.

How can civilized life be expected to continue in these circumstances?

A cynic (not like me, I’m just a skeptic) might say that they can read a book or watch TV instead but that’s even more patronizing than I am normally. These days access to the internet is an essential tool in business as well as home life. I know of a law firm and several leading business people who’ve not been able to communicate electronically with their customers and partners all over the world. I know that these people have had to spend extra money making long-distance phone calls to explain that they seem to now be based in a third-world country. What’s more they’ve then had the embarrassment of explaining to the rest of the world that the organization causing this problem hasn’t much idea how long this will last.

The trouble with this is the message it sends to the rest of the world. We’re a country desperately trying to attract foreign tourists to leave their lovely, sexy foreign currency behind when they leave, and more importantly foreign companies to come here and invest all that delicious cash in our country. Why would they do that if they won’t be able to send an email to HQ, they can’t video-conference or their kids can’t get onto Facebook?

I know it’s probably unfair of me to blame BTC for having a piece of equipment fail but don’t they have a “Plan B”? Hasn’t their Disaster Recovery Planning Team sat down and considered all the things that can go wrong and developed a recovery plan for each of them? I know, I’ve actually been on DRP teams where you think through every possible disaster from earthquakes to coffee spills and develop a plan for each possibility. I hope that BTC has such a team and these plans? I hope their recovery plan for this particular failure was more than “Mmmm, do you think they have a new router at Incredible Connection? Let’s go and see, we can have lunch while we’re down there.”

Yes, before the techies start complaining I DO realize that this piece of equipment is not something you can get at the local store, it’s no doubt a cabinet sized box of tricks that cost a million. But what did the loss of connection cost the nation? This really is the sort of thing where you keep a replacement in another building on a separate power supply. It costs money but it saves your business when things fail, as they inevitably will sooner or later.

I don’t want to rant too much about this particular failure but what irritates me more than the failure is the absence of any information from BTC. There is nothing on their web site but then I suppose you could argue that if you have no internet access then you can’t visit their web site. They have now, to their credit, published adverts in the paper saying that things are broken but giving little in the way of reassurance that it’s either going to be fixed soon or won’t happen again.

However I’ve relied on a completely different organization for information. Here’s a simple tip for how to keep abreast of internet access problems in Botswana. Ignore your own service provider and visit the web site of IBIS and you’ll see that they have an up-to-date status page outlining the problems, even giving a timetable from BTC that BTC appears to have declined to show the public. A national pat on the back to the techies at IBIS for helping everyone, not just their own customers.

A national smack on the rear for BTC for failing to keep us informed. But let’s be optimistic. They have a new CEO who has a mandate to get things moving. At his first press conference he was quoted by the Botswana Gazette as saying that “Internet is not a necessity, it is a right”. He went on to say that “We need to focus on the customer and ensure that they get value for money for their services.”

OK, we’ll assume this was an inheritance from that time BTC had no head, shall we? It’s not the new boy’s fault. Meanwhile, I hope the poor guy realizes the nation is watching him?

I don’t mean this next criticism of BTC, in fact BTC is one of the few parastatals that I think has genuinely improved over the last few years, but many organisations do no more than go through the motions of customer care. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is sick and tired of those posters and banners you see in the foyers of government departments, parastatals and even some private companies that announce their commitment to customer care and offer a range of promises about how long you’ll wait, the quality of service you’ll receive and how enchanted you’ll be when you finish.

Like strategy, mission and vision statements, they’re nothing more than a cover for not actually really caring about customer care. Any organization that wastes it’s time developing all these nonsensical statements should file call them under “Customer Don’t Care Standards” because that’s what these statements really say about how much they care about their customers. If they really cared they’d actually do something about service, not just talk about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo. Don't you think the time for excuses has come and gone. Its not as though BTC staff weren't getting paid salaries while there was no confirmed CEO. Customer Service and Disaster Recovery Planning should be as much part of their system as paying their own salaries.