Critical Care – a definition

Just how critical is critical?

I’m only really familiar with it in a medical setting:

Critical care: The specialized care of patients whose conditions are life-threatening and who require comprehensive care and constant monitoring, usually in intensive care units. Also known as intensive care.

But if you’re going to appropriate medical terminology into your customer service offering, surely it would be sensible to implement the urgency and actual processes it refers to as well?

Spoiler: I’d be dead by now.

An open letter to Afrihost

I actually sent them this letter in a more traditional “closed” fashion yesterday, but I’m so very irritated at being repeatedly ignored that I thought I’d take the gamble of publishing it here too.
‘Gamble’ because this blog is hosted by… er… Afrihost.
And because my internet connectivity is supplied by… er… Afrihost.

But while we’re here, before diving into the misery and nonsense below, let me say that I’ve been pretty happy with their hosting. That’s why my blog has been on Afrihost for many years now. Uptime is generally very good, and thus I’ve never really had to use their customer service much.
And, again, as an ISP, they’ve done the job, and done it well. Je suis content.

See. My. Smile.

And that’s why when we decided to make the switch from ADSL to fibre, I decided upon them as the service provider, through Openserve.

It’s been a disaster. Firstly, they told me that they couldn’t do it, even though their website said they could. Then they said that they could do it, but it would take 4 weeks. That was ok. Good things come to those who wait.

Long story short, I’m due some really – really – incredible things, because I’ve been waiting more than a year now.

Hawu. Eish. Wena.

And it’s not so much that I’ve had to wait – it’s that they keep promising and then not delivering. And their customer service has all gone a bit MTN.

Here’s the email they sent me yesterday morning:

Good day I trust you are well 🙂 We apologies it took so long to give you an update. Openserve have notified us that they are still working on the fibre infrastructure in your area and they have not given an estimated date of completion. We will however change your order to a pre-order for now. As soon as your area goes live we will notify you. So in the meantime you may opt for our RAIN/LTE services whilst we wait for the activation of fibre in your area. We apologize for the inconvenience caused and thank you for your patience. If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Truth be told, I’ve searched my SENT ITEMS folder, and I actually have no idea what they’re feeding back from. But that last line looked so good, so inviting, so I got in touch:

[email begins]

 

“If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.”?

Well, ok: YES! I HAVE QUESTIONS! ASSIST ME!

It’s been over a year since you promised me fibre in 1 month.

Literally, I have emails from last May (already) apologising for messing up my initial request. Lolz – warning bells, much?

To cut a ridiculously long story short, though:
In January 2018, you told me I could have it on “April 31st”. Ha!

Good day I trust you are well. We receive feedback from Openserve in regards with your order and they have informed us that there is a Project scheduled for completion 2018/04/31 . Please note that I have changed the order to pre order and will follow up after the project to confirm installation. Have a great day

But there are only 30 days in April, we joked. Lolz – warning bells, much?

Then, when “April 31st” came and went (10 days ago, in fact), you said it would now be July 31st. Here’s that email, in case you have forgotten:

Good day, I trust you are well. Please note that Openserve has given us feedback that your order is linked to a project that is estimated to complete on the 31-07-2018. Once the project is done, Openserve will be in contact to schedule you for an installation. Apologies for the lack of feedback thus far. Kind Regards Afrihost Fibre Ops

Well, at least there is a July 31st, I thought.

But now you tell me that Openserve “have not given an estimated date of completion”.

SOOOOOOO…..

How come when I go onto your Fibre Availability page (it’s here: https://www.afrihost.com/fibre/capped#fibre-availability) and check my address, I get this?

(Note: Image subtly altered to protect my home address as the neighbours don’t appreciate the hordes of fans camping outside.)

“Approx. 1 weeks”?
Really?
Really really?

This is actually complete bullshit, isn’t it?
It looks deliberately inaccurate; bordering on deceitful even, I’d say.

I mean, the cynic in me wants to suggest that if you were to put the truth there, like “Openserve “have not given an estimated date of completion””, for example, instead of that 1 week nonsense, people might not go for your offering and might take their business and money elsewhere.

And your footnote:

Installation lead times are a guide based on averages and will vary. Line activation and connection times need to be added for full turnaround estimation

suggesting that that 1 week time is based on an average, means that you must be installing literally within MINUTES somewhere near here, because, as we’ve been through above, you have no estimated date of completion for Openserve in our area, so God only knows how you can suggest that 7 days timeframe as an average.

Who does this kwik maffs?

I’ve been in touch via email before. And on twitter. I’ve held for ages on your phone line before giving up.
But I’ve (quite literally in that last case) had no answer as to what’s going on with my installation and as to why you’re still punting a product that you – knowingly – simply can’t deliver.

What happens now?

You’ll blame Openserve, I guess. “It’s out of our hands”, “they need to do the infrastructure work” etc. etc. you’ll tell me.
But if you know that, and you don’t know when that work is going to be done (like you told me above), why are you falsely advertising to potential new customers that you can provide a service on that same infrastructure within a week?

I can’t wait for your reply.

 

[email ends]

I will wait though. Experience tells me this.
And when I get it, it will promise feedback, which won’t ever happen.

To be honest, I don’t know if anyone else can provide fibre to my home more quickly that Afrihost can. If they’re right and the infrastructure isn’t there (despite the fact that several neighbours have fibre and have done for over a year), then there’s nothing much anyone can do. But really, I’d much rather work with a company which is honest and open about the limitations of providing their service.

And not one which is clearly making false claims and has consistently broken promise after promise.

Things do go wrong. Any reasonable person can understand that, and I can like to be a reasonable person. It’s how you deal with the things that go wrong that makes the difference.

So, last chance, Afrihost. Let’s play the decent customer service game like you used to do, and let’s have the truth about my fibre installation, please.

Just another fight

A let off steam kind of post…

Things go wrong. It happens.
Sometimes it’s someone’s fault, sometimes it’s bad luck or bad planning, and sometimes there doesn’t appear to be any good reason for it.

Things go wrong. It’s how you put them right that matters.

Companies can make things better is by handing the situation promptly, efficiently and politely. An apology for the thing that has gone wrong is nearly always a really good starting point.

I’m a member of a international courier scheme. When I put it like that, it sounds quite nefarious, but it’s really not. It gives me access to addresses in several (or more) countries around the world. I can then buy stuff online in those countries, get them delivered to that local address and from there, they get forwarded to me in Cape Town. It costs a bit to join (a one-off fee) and then you pay a certain amount for each shipment. It still works out cheaper than direct delivery, and it’s via a courier, so it’s trackable and (ahem) more reliable.

I used this system to ship some goods in from the UAE. My Emirates airmiles were about to expire, so I cashed them in online here and got myself a pair of headphones and Mrs 6000 got some cosmetics. They were then shipped to my address in the UAE (just down the road from Emirates), I paid a handsome fee to the courier and then the goods should fly through Johannesbeagle to me in the Mother City.

All was going well. The package from Emirates arrived at my virtual address in Umm Ramool, Dubai on the 18th November. From there, 8 hours later, it went to the courier company’s “Dubai Express Hub” and then was shipped (ironically almost certainly via Emirates) to Johannesburg, where the record says it arrived at 13:20 on 20th November – only about 40 hours after they first got hold of it.

This is impressive. This is how it’s meant to work.

Then there came a long delay in Customs. This happens sometimes, and you can keep nudging the courier, but it’s often out of their control. However, I nudged several times, and then once more forcefully, and suddenly like a plunger in a blocked toilet, a mere 16 days (eish!) after it arrived in Johannesburg, my package was Cleared from Customs:

And lo, there was much celebration and joyfulness and singing and dancing and making of merriment in the streets of Cape Town.

Sadly though, nothing happened after that, despite my repeated phone calls to the Johannesburg office. I was assured, time and again, that they would chase it up and call me back, that it just needed to get to their office and then they would have it in Cape Town the following day. But no-one ever called me back. It still hasn’t reached their office.

It took until today – and my 12th phone call to the courier company regarding this shipment – for someone to tell me that the package had likely never arrived in Joburg. That it was part of a “courier bag” which had gone missing on or around the 19th. That shipments from Dubai “usually take a day” to get here and this one had (already) taken over three weeks. Throughout the previous 11 phone calls though, no-one had bothered (or dared?) to tell me that my package was missing. No-one could be bothered to take responsibility.

Half of me is pissed off at the apparent deceitfulness, the other half is pissed off that no-one is willing to try and make things right. I, as the client, am the one doing all the hard work to sort out the mess caused by something going wrong with something that is very much their bit of our agreement.

But customer service in South Africa is so very poor, and it’s cases like this that are not just an illustration of how bad it is, but also an example of why it can be so bad – because the bar is set so very low. I could be having this problem with any one of 10 other local courier companies as well, or any one of 4 local cellphone companies, or any one of 1 local online shopping companies – not one of them stands out from the crowd.
And precisely because of that, not one of them has to.

I’ve aired my displeasure on Twitter now (my last resort and something I really hate to do), and finally (surprise surprise when you go public) someone has actually called me for the first time. There may even have been a mumbled apology. They’re looking into what’s gone wrong and they are going to update me tomorrow.

Fair enough – I’ll give them that chance.
Only now, it’s not just how they put things right that matters, but how they put not putting things right in the first place right.

I’ll keep you updated.

Social Media & Public Customer Service

There’s obviously more to running a business’ social media account than there seems to be. Otherwise we’d all be at it. But it seems that some businesses don’t really get it. I think it’s one of those things that your business either does, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then (maybe) you’re missing an opportunity and (almost certainly) you will make some people on Twitter very annoyed:

“OMG! Like, [Brand X] isn’t even on Twitter! Talk about backward! Ugh!”

Those individuals are perhaps forgetting that there’s a whole other world out there that doesn’t rely on social media in the same way that it relies on oxygen, and gets on with life just fine.

But if your business does do social media, then the expectation is that it has to be all in. There is no halfway house here. That’s even worse than not doing social media at all. And you’ve got to do it correctly. History is littered with horrendous social media own goals from just about every company ever, as the hoards of Offendatrons seeking outrage at the slightest misinterpretation or misplaced word in those 140 characters are ready to jump – loudly – all over your case.
Yes, social media is the public face of your company to anyone using Facebook or Twitter, and if you mess up there, you mess up in front of (potentially) hundreds of thousands of individuals, some of whom may once have been future customers.

Oops.

Fortunately, there’s always another social media outrage bus to jump onto, and the public’s memory is short, meaning that these ‘scandals’ don’t last long.

But what if you were to use these facts to your advantage? What if you were to brand all your company’s easily-distinguishable, bright red vehicles with your twitter handle, inviting public engagement, and then used the public face of twitter to appear caring and on the ball when negative comments came your way, but then – once people had swiftly moved on – actually did nothing about addressing the problem?

Step forward then, catchily-named Sport 24 hrs Taxis – they’re @Sport24hrsSA on twitter. And I was “rather disappointed” by the quality of the driving and maintenance on one of their vehicles last week. When I contacted them on twitter, they replied within 5 minutes. Evidently, Sport 24 hrs Taxis are one of those “all-in” companies who “do” social media.

1Fullscreen capture 2016-03-23 093954 AM

Impressive response time. And  taking it private sounds like a plan, because actually no-one else really cares about the outcome, which will surely be something along the lines of “Sorry about all that. We’ve told the driver not to use his phone while driving and we’ve fixed the brake light”, right?

There was a hitch though – Twitter rules mean that I couldn’t DM them (send them a direct message), because they didn’t follow me on the popular microblogging service. Silly people.

Still, there are other ways to get in touch with me, as I let them know, (right after I had made the kids some dinner):

Fullscreen capture 2016-03-23 102840 AM.bmp

And so they got in touch with me and they said “Sorry about all that. We’ve told the driver not to use his phone while driving and we’ve fixed the brake light”.

Except: no.
No, they didn’t. 

I’m here to tell you that once their public facade had appeared caring, helpful and concerned, I’ve not heard a single word from them on any forum. No contact whatsoever. I’m using this blog to let you know that as far as I’m aware, they’ve done absolutely nothing about the broken brake light on Taxi 26, nor have they addressed the issue of the driver using his phone and weaving all over the road at 80kph past UCT. Because surely if they had done anything about it, they would have dropped me an email or contacted me on twitter to tell me that they had. No?

So, if you publicly comment on a company’s service on twitter and they tell you that they are going to follow up, please hold them to their word and make sure they do.

And, don’t be fooled by a company responding promptly to and promising to follow up on a negative comment or observation on twitter, because the quick public response followed by fokol aksie in private approach is all too easy to use when you want to make it look like you care, but you actually don’t give a toss.

Probably someone else…

Incoming email reply from local restaurant manager begins:

You are, unless I am much mistaken, Mr @6000 on Twitter. I follow you via our [local restaurant] account and I am a fan of your twitter persona and your most entertaining and informative website.  We shall see to it that [another local restaurant] and several others become so as well. That way, they may all learn something from you.

Oh blimey. My reputation precedes me. Although it’s a bit of stretch to just think “microbiologist” and “6000.co.za email address”, and assume that we are one, the same, and have a numerical pseudnym on a popular social media platform (although we are, and we do).

To be honest, it’s an even bigger stretch to call this blog “most entertaining and informative”, but hey, I’ll take it.

More customer service like this, please.