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When the Customer Is ALWAYS Right. PART I: ETISALAT NIGERIA

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I loved Etisalat. In fact, at a time when Nigerians have mastered the art of subscribing to multiple networks so as to buffer one with the other, i have become strictly Etisalat, buying SIM after SIM from the same network provider. Believing ?wrongly and ruefully that I was being 'Naija for life', and flaunting my network like nothing else mattered. Well, until they too showed me their other side.

Here's what happened.

I see the advert for credit-to-bonus conversion each time I recharge. You know the scheme, don't you?... you dial a code and N200 credit becomes N600 bonus valid for 7 days, N1000 becomes N2500 valid for 14 days, and so on. Sounds interesting, right? But if you have dealt with these networks before, you will have been taught that 'nothing goes for nothing'. So, I finally decided to find out more about it. Knowledge is key na. Especially in this era of carrot-and-stick.

The Customer Care lady that attended to me said the scheme only works on EasyLite 4.0. And did well to tell me about the various options and their validity periods. Then she assumed I wanted in on the promo, perhaps because I sounded interested and all, and instantly migrated me from my lovable EasyCliq. Not with my consent, not even with my knowledge.

I only realised what had happened when I got a text welcoming me to EasyLite 4.0. Surprised that I was, I immediately called Customer Care to explain my plight, and rectify the mishap.

The lady that attended to me reassured me, and said I could migrate back, that I had free migration on my line; she gave me the migration code for EasyCliq, and insisted I migrate back myself! As it turned out, it was wrong for her, or any agent, to migrate anyone. All they should do is give you the code for the plan you are interested in, and you in turn migrate at your convenience. So she did, and so did I...

I was happy. It was finally over. We are humans after all, and the first lady made a mistake, a mistake that had been rectified, as I was led to believe. Yet, no one, neither the first nor second lady, thought to inform me of my deactivation from the double-your-recharge promo consequent upon migration from EasyCliq to EasyLite: you recharge, N200 and above and get the same amount as bonus; recharge N100 and get N50 bonus... for the first six months of having registered your line, as I have now been made aware.

Days go by and all seems well until I can finally afford to recharge my line o. I loaded my usual N200 and lo and behold the onetime instantaneous bonus waves from afar, literarily! I waited to no avail; the bonus just wouldn't come. As it turned out, the corpse we buried is now showing its feet, wriggling its toes at us, mocking us from exile six feet beneath...

Finally, I called customer care, àbí, what else can one do? First there was this Hausa-sounding aboki (yes, I am aware that means 'my male friend') who spent ten minutes perambulating and looking for what was not lost. And when he had done a good job of confusing himself and could bore me no longer, I said Thank You and hung up.

Then I called again. This time the answer was sharp and stunning, literarily. Na like say the lady dey fight me. Perhaps she had been expecting me to call back. Anyway, I was summarily informed that my migration from EasyCliq had deactivated the promo on my line, and that it cannot be reactivated– EVER! It didn't matter whether it was intentional or not, it does not matter whether it was my fault or theirs, but it was the forever part that broke the camel's back: forever is a long time.

I have contacted them via Facebook. Same attitude, same verdict. It did not matter that it was a mistake that was not mine to begin with. It does not matter that an apology-softened response was an entitlement and not a favour. The only thing that matters is impunity, the reality that there is nothing any customer can do to them, the realisation of helplessness. I had thought that Etisalat had the best customer service in Nigeria, well not any longer... Maybe the fastest, sha; but then, how can I be sure: I have only been with Etisalat in recent times.

Anyway, back to the matter. Na to throwe the SIM card be that, abi? Forever is too long a time to wait; and I never wan turn vampire...

On a serious note, what was my fault? calling customer service to enquire about a service? Was it my fault that I was migrated in an act that was a mistake at worst, and (over)zealousness at best? Should I have to bear the brunt for a mistake that was not mine to begin with? Should I not have been told the implications of migrating, AND asked if I actually wanted to migrate?

The Etisalat I knew was better than this!

There is only so much a customer can endure. They send adverts all the time, turning an innovative means of communication into a nuisance; I no talk. Their network recently refused to allow Whatsapp messages for close to a day, disrupting the communications of millions of Nigerians; I no complain. I don't get to use my data bonus once it gets below 1 MB, dem dey claim say sheybi na gift, àbí?; I no protest. But to make me suffer for the mistake of THEIR operative without adequate apology and correction is just unacceptable. Etisalat, una no try at all.

It is high time Nigerians started demanding quality service and customer respect! The other time Julius Agwu was going to sue a telecomms company, I thought he was being extreme; now I know he wasn't even harsh enough. It is time these companies realised that they cannot ride roughshod over us. The tenure of impunity is gone. We're customers, not staff; we're the reason they are here and remain so.

They will not let you decide if you want their ceaseless adverts, both the useful and the crassly silly: Have you ever been told you are the lucky one, the special one, the one Nigeria has been waiting for, and should consequently send a text at a cost? Have you ever been advised to dial a code to get a better plan without being told what the plan lacks that you currently have, what you stand to lose by doing their bidding? Have you ever felt inconsequentialised by a customer care agent? Have you been woken in the middle of the night by their aimless calls or/and pointless texts? Then you must be a Nigerian!

They tell you a service is free and urge you to subscribe; God help you if you fail to see the 'N200/week' at the end of the text. Then they make un-subscribing so difficult that you hate yourself for wanting to do it; yet they put you there in the first place. They transfer you from XtraConnect to whatever, and you dare not complain. And what is worse? a lot of these adverts are paid for; one therefore wonders why the consumer cannot share in the proceeds since he bears the inconvenience!

Yet, times change, as history tells: Who woulda thought SMS will one day be N4 per page? Thank God for Whatsapp and BBM. Who woulda thought calls off-network can be as low as 15kobo per second? Thank God for Skype. Who woulda thought we could pay per second? Thank God for glo. Who woulda thought SIM cards will be handed out free of charge? Times change... And that time for change is now!

It is high time Nigerians demanded quality service for the expensive billing we get. Forget about our grandparents in the National Congregation, they only do what is in the best interest of their clergy; you know na, tithes and offerings... We are our own Representatives! We do not receive airtime allowance, we buy credit with our hard-earned money; it is high time we made every kobo count. It is high time we expressed ourselves...

Respect is not a favour, it's not some promo, it's not a bonus that expires before you get to enjoy it since they deliberately did not tell you it would be withdrawn in a meagre 24 hours, Jack Bauer-style. It is a right we have earned by our loyal patronage, our huge purchases, and our massive utilisation of their relatively expensive service. That our elected humans have stuffed throats and wry necks is not to say we are likewise blind and mute, or dumb and dunce.

We are Nigerians; we demand to be respected on our soil at least. The bullshit has gone on for too long. Enough is enough! We have got to the point of recording calls and seeking legal action, even calls to Customer Care, and especially nauseating calls of one advert or the other. We have had enough of their nuisance.

Now I'm being made to let go of a number I cherish because some operative will not go through the stress of fixing his colleague's error. Etisalat was the best network, not after this. Unless this injustice is reversed, Etisalat is just as bad as the rest, shikenah. And if you like, ehn, comot all my lines wey dey ya domot, including the one wey I just buy last week; na you sabi...

I sha insist say better way go dey to encourage customer patrotism; yes, there must be a better way to respect a customer than blame him for your own mistake! Now I'm talking, àbí?

Ayk Fowosire (c/o #Ayk_EDIT)
Sagamu.

PS. In fairness to Etisalat, after I sent them a draft of this article, which I did in fairness to them, someone called from them, tried to convince me of the triviality of my case, and insisted that the records show that I dialled the migration code myself. She was nice, àbí na attentive now. But it was just my word against theirs, àbí? I know I didn't; I know if they played my conversation with that agent on September 2nd, sheybi dem dey record am for 'quality assessment', they would realise that I didn't request for a migration, or acquiesce to it.

Anyways, 'the promo expires after six months of registering your SIM', if that is right, and I'm almost there; what a consolation! Alas, Etisalat is not as bad as I implied, or as good as I believed, but dem still fall my hand. And in the words of my First Lady, dia'ris god o...

Thank you, Etisalat; thank you for your time, and for my experience.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Ayokunle Ayk Fowosire and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Ayokunle Ayk Fowosire