Is Good Service a Myth in Uganda? [opinion]

On one day last week, I had lunch at a restaurant on Entebbe road. Schools are now closed for the end-of-year break so, no bell summoning us to lunch.

There is nothing fancy about this restaurant’s deacutecor but the lunch was delicious and sizeable! Of course it follows that prices are affordable.

Unfortunately, a man on the next table started an argument with a waitress midway through his meal. Apparently he had ordered pillao but was given something else. The girl was apologetic but argued she had served him pillao.

The man insisted that it was fried rice with meat but not pillao! I had a look as well and it looked like pillao! However, the man would not budge according to him it was not pillao. Stalemate! It is unlikely that this man will return to the restaurant.

Whilst Ugandans are seemingly disappointed by service delivery in the public sector, there is a lot to be concerned about in the private sector. In some organisations, management may not even be aware of the poor service offered by employees.

We used to have a gateman at the secondary school that was eventually nicknamed ‘Carist’. He had an intense dislike of anyone who visited the school on foot perhaps judging them as very poor people. He would subject them to rigorous questioning, body searches and delays. It took school management some time to find out so, his conduct probably sent away some visitors.

If you were to assess telephone and data services from the aerts or promotions in Uganda, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is heaven on earth offered. All claim high-speed data, extended connections and more. And their services are not cheap either. Phone and data services cost a lot more in Uganda than in Europe or America.

Personally I use three service providers for data: Airtel, MTN and Smile. I would say that in my experience Smile has provided the best help desk response when there is a problem. The challenge is that despite the many phone calls and email exchanges, their data on my dongle seems to run out too fast! A package meant to run for two months lasts just three weeks.

In November I bought a one-day 50MB bundle from MTN. The money was promptly deducted from my mobile money account and that was it. The bundle never arrived! An hour later, I called customer services and was attended to by a quite unpleasant man. He informed me that that was a problem with the mobile money department and asked me to contact them.

Despite using my gentlest, coaxing teacher’s tone when talking to a tired student about tackling another complex question, the customer service representative was unmoved. No, he was not going to fix the problem for me! No, he would not contact mobile money for me either. Instead, he was tired of my failure to listen to his instructions! I gave up.

Earlier I had received a long email from an irate Observer newspaper fan who detailed how she had lost Shs 5,000 when she bought an Airtel airtime top-up scratch card. That was the only money she had then and she needed to make some urgent phone calls. Unfortunately, no airtime was credited despite several attempts.

On calling customer service, she was informed that her particular scratch card would load the airtime in June next year! The customer service representative aised her to go back and contact the vendor from whom she had purchased the scratch card. Her protest that this was a vendor on Katwe road did not gain her any sympathy or help. She must wait for June 2015 and Airtel customer services office is aware of this enforced waiting!

Who printed and distributed airtime scratch cards in October that would deliver their load in June next year? What kind of training is offered to customer services representatives? Do they have an understanding of what it means to manage a help desk?

Everyone in Uganda has their own version of when they experienced poor service. A friend told me there is a hotel he likes to go to in the city but the food service is slow, drinks are never cold enough and cleaners take their time. However, the reception manager, parking attendant and barman are excellent so, he keeps coming back.

Question is how do we then make government more accountable if poor service is synonymous with Uganda?

The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.

Source : The Observer

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