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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lousy customer services for foreigners


Features of the week:

That customers are the kings of every business may not be in the dictionary of the Düsseldorf-based Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operator, e-plus. Foreigners are lost as soon as they subscribe to this network in the name of language barrier and lack of customer relations at the service shops. Reports REMMY NWEKE.

IMAGINE buying a Subscriber Identification Module (SIM), only to be told that you cannot send a Short Messaging Service (SMS) to your country, merely because you are in Germany.

Your reaction is better imagined than what Mazi Eyi Eze got as a welcome pack from e-plus recently.

Mazi Eyi Eze has been in Germany and Berlin precisely for over one week, and was dying to be in touch with his family; hear the voice of his lovely wife and exchange text messages from his base in Lagos-Nigeria, but these were not forthcoming.

This could be more disturbing looking at the background of Mazi, which is of the eastern Nigeria; where families and even extended families must keep to the brotherly relationship maintained over the years.

Experience amassed with confusion

It became imperative to probably buy a mobile SIM, which took him to one of the assistants he met on arrival who came up with list of available offering within and among mobile telecom operators in the city of Berlin.

Alas, a choice was made and e-plus was picked basically for its low-cost Short Messaging Service (SMS) both locally and internationally.

E-plus, a Dusseldorf-based Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), began offering mobile services to Berlin and seven other major cities in Germany since 1994.

24 hours later, one e-plus SIM has been paid for, fixed on a Siemens S65 GSM/Global Packet Radio Service (GPRS) handset, and ready for use. So, Mazi now has a Berlin number he could be reached on anytime, but there was still a problem - the language question and SMS?

This is because all customer care service personnel at Wilmerdorf StraBe shop of e-plus, attend to people in German language.

It was then that the language barrier thing dawned on him, leaving Mazi in the world of his own. Although he was later assisted in activation of the SIM to place a call through to announce to his family in Lagos the new phone number, this joy was short-lived because the low-cost SMS was not going through to his Nigeria’s network, Vmobile.

A trial to contact a family member via SMS failed up to the 10th time and thinking he could fix this later on in a nearby shop to his guest house at Osnabrucker StraBe, he headed for home.

An American, who recently relocated to Hamburg-Germany, preferred to be known as Mr. Ken Jeff, who also uses e-Plus, said he is experiencing the same problem, although he would have loved to send some SMS’ to the grandma in the United States and efforts have not been successful.

False network report

In spite of this, on his way, Mazi branched into a café and call center along Meirendorff StraBe manned by an Ethiopian, Mr. Denmise, complaining of his experience so far.

Mr. Denmise also tried helping by interpreting the system generated SMS from the service provider via +491770703700, on probably why Mazi’s SMS was not sent.

It reads, “Die SMS konnte nicht zugestellt widen, da entweder die eingegebene Nummer nicht gultig ist oder das Guthaben der Free & Easy Card nicht ausreichend ist.”

This, he explained, to mean that the SMS cannot be delivered either because the number may be incorrect or there is no credit on the phone.

Then, Mr. Denmise checked on the credit by pressing 1155 only to discover that it has about E14.11 cents, as well as the number also correctly entered. So he gave up.

It was further gathered that Mazi could not send messages on his Berlin line but could receive, because it is a prepaid SIM, in addition to e-plus having international roaming with one out of the four GSM operators in Nigeria.

Finding a place for foreign customers

Currently, Nigeria records over 18 million GSM subscribers as at early weeks of December, 2005, according to the telecom regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and that was a growth achieved within four years of GSM in the country, with four operators.

So, if for instance, e-plus decided to have only one international roaming agreement with GSM networks in Nigeria, definitely, the teleco is missing greatly real business. Given that the number of Nigerians residing in Berlin and Germany generally with relatives scattered over the country goes into thousands.

And expanding this vital contact, would mean finding a place for versatile customers in its network and may be, in its lexicon of Customer Relations Management (CRM).

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