“Up NEPA!” A phrase that I find more repulsive than ironic. I felt the rage right from when I was a boy trying to watch “Voltron: The Defender of the Universe” knowing fully well that even Voltron could not defend himself against a blackout. Yes, NEPA would strike. It could be for hours, days, weeks, months, years. You name it; people have experienced it. There is a history of power black-outs and power problems that have become more of the culture than a disappointment. It’s expected. Most people have had very bad experiences with the utility company and its affiliates, both staff and contractors. But, I have been experiencing something somewhat unexpected.
I have been observing something for a few years now. I am beginning to experience good service from IKEDC which still takes me aback. Just so we are clear, I am the archetypical irate customer. I storm in, grimace and get ready to yell and argue to try my problem solved so I can go away. This is not a successful approach but here we are. I scream at customer service advisers and their managers and ask for as much concessions and compensations as possible usually to no avail. But, for more than two years my experience with IKEDC has been surprisingly pleasant and impressive.
On several occasions, I have gone to the IKEDC offices for complaints and I have found speedy resolutions and a very responsive staff. This has been going on for a few years and I am not sure whether other people are noticing or experiencing the same thing. Although, the energy industry is a monopoly, this approach to good service is quite astonishing to me. The first time was when I was using the online customer care line. It was the weekend and there had been not light for about 3 days. I had a lot of work to do and my inverter was going to go off the next day. So, I thought I might as well use the internet to try to contact them. I did not think much of it but it was worth a try. I got a response on helpline chat.
This just involved filling in some details and writing your complaint. The chat was pretty casual and I did not have much of an expectation. The attendant informed me of the current problem and told me that power would be restored the next day. This was Saturday. For IKEDC to restore light on Sunday to me was complete BS. Sunday came. Power was restored. I went outside to check if the sun still in the sky and if that sky was blue. A few more times when there was no light for more than two days, I used the same chat service and issues were quickly resolved. I stopped using the service because it was just awkward. It was as if I had got some kind of superpower and besides, I stopped having blackouts for more than 2 days.
Another experience has some level of frustration. I was trying to get a meter for another property where I was not actually living in. There were new tenants moving in and I was in charge of making sure there was a new meter. The process was going along well. Going to the IKEDC office was straight forward. The engineer I spoke was very receptive and advised me properly on how to process the request fairly quickly. I told me there was an inspection to be done by third party agents. The agent part was where it started becoming an issue. She came late and incoherent. She could not decide how her transport money should be used on her assignment. I don’t have any idea why she was bringing this up with me. I got a few missed appointments and I thought this was unacceptable. I went to make a complaint and in both offices of Alausa and Ojota. The staff knew what they were doing, were proactive, and provided a speedy resolution. I got my new meter without any further hassles.
Now as much as I don’t like most companies that collect money from me ( I like to keep my money), I really like it when companies take care of their own money .i.e. being able to collect on monies owed and track their accounts and billings. Two of my neighbours were caught having irregular power installations. One was not paying bills at all and one was not using the appropriate meter. IKEDC someone was able to track and target the irregularity. This is good because it demonstrates they are competent and don’t have to rely on whistle-blowers to discover these kinds of issues (Hilary ain’t no snitch). I think this was part of their asset audit and assessment initiative they had a few years back. This way, they can account for all their assets that are vital to billings and collection. This is a great factor in loss prevention and capturing revenue that may otherwise be lost. This is also good for paying customers as the costs of non-payers will eventually affect them.
I really don’t know how they were able to improve and develop their customer service capabilities or who the brains behind it are. But, it brings me to companies that need good or if possible great customer care service delivery. JUMIA to me has poor customer service and this is really disappointing considering the enormous expense sunk towards this.
JUMIA sucks! What is really sad it that most of the people in JUMIA are really smart and hard-working. In fact, they are the most intelligent and hard-working group of people that I have ever met. But, something is really wrong with system and the culture. This leads to them dropping the ball unnecessarily and too often. There seems to be a lack of incentives and process that develop customer satisfaction and develop relationships. Trying to improve customer satisfaction needs more than just surveys and discounts. Even to me, one of worst things is the 7-day money back guarantee. This is a costly lose-lose scenario which is amazing it just goes on. I remember a video clip I watched during my MBA that showed the owner of Sam Club’s recalling how he gave a customer her money back. She turned and told him that she would never come back again. He was baffled. But, then he realized she didn’t want her money back. She wanted to be a satisfied customer. JUMIA returns buyers money but not their confidence in the company. Also, many vendors really have bitter experience with JUMIA and they incur losses. This is not just bad for the company but also the employees.
JUMIA staff are becoming used to something called CYA (Cover Your A**). It’s a passive aggressive tactic found in many corporate environments where people don’t want to make themselves vulnerable or open to blame. It’s in discussions, e-mails, inter-department interactions. The problem-solving is replaced with self-preservation. So, the employee would do only what would not cause him any potential problems. This is co-morbid with pushing blame to vendors which you can see could really be bad for company’s image and reputation. It’s really unfortunate because it means that costly mistakes and repeated and over and over again. The capital of the company has to be built in terms of stakeholders and that includes customers and vendors. Customer service is not a feel good cliché. It’s actually that system that can be a powerful source of competitive advantage.
Going back to IKEDC, I remember overhearing a Customer Advisor have an exchange with a colleague. I just came to resolve an issue I was having with a payment. It was resolved within 3 days which I thought was reasonable. The colleague was relaying a message from a customer and addressed IKEDC as NEPA. The Customer Advisor coolly replied “We are not NEPA.”