Just to get this out of the way early in this post, let me say that I really believe that I can be probably any customer care representative’s worst nightmare. So in many cases I am the really bad customer. Over the years I have mellowed down with age and also just a conscious desire/instructions to keep my blood pressure from going through the roof by carefully choosing my battles/opponents. In my younger days, and I know a lot of people who are still at this stage, I was what one would consider an activist. I would engage watchmen positioned at the entrances of city buildings in many arguments about how asking me for my identity card infringed on my rights as a Kenyan, a professional, a parent, a customer or whatever important hat I felt I was wearing at the time of entering the building. Depending on how the day had been for me so far, I would ensure that my presence is felt and acknowledged. In some cases I just kept going on and on because I knew that if I stopped and thought about the things I had said then I would realize how disrespectful, selfish and even childish I was. It is amazing the lengths people could go to to prove a point.
1. Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Co.
I once applied for a landline at my house. In the newspapers there were so many complaints about how long it took from the time you applied for a line to the time the line was actually installed. You would fill out the application form then be given a card acknowledging your application and informing you to wait until you were contacted by post (there were no cellphones at the time) about when your line would be installed. So I went to one of their offices, filled out the form and got the card and was told to check on them in two weeks. I insisted on being told why two weeks and the lady was a bit pissed off at this request that she referred me to her boss and warned that if I took my rudeness there, I would never get a line, ever. I had heard that there was a waiting list of about 800,000 applicants. I went to her boss and asked the same question. What are the two weeks for? He respectfully took me through the entire process from department to department that my application would have to go through until the line was installed. I counted seven offices that it would have to go to. I told him to do his part, which entailed only his signature and give me the form. I said I would personally take it to all those offices myself. The first two were easy, The third one required the transport department to allocate a vehicle to surveyors to come to my place. I said I would take them in my car if they were around. They were, so we went with them to my house and they did their thing. I honestly do not think they did anything but hey, what do I know?
On arrival back to their offices I went to the ‘stage four’ office where the occupant just told me without even looking up “put your form there and come back after a week”. I was a bit tired and decided I had made enough progress for the day and went home. I went back there the next week on Wednesday and I kid you not, the form was in exactly the same place I had put it a week before. When the guy saw me he just looked at it, signed it then told me to come back after a week. I refused. I insisted that he explains what he had done with the whole week I had given before and what he intended to do with this other one he was asking for. I told him that I needed the line for my work and since I did not have a line, I had no work so I would sit there and wait. He thought I was joking. I refused to leave his office till something was done. He asked me to excuse him and then he left me at the office, went for lunch for a whole hour and was shocked to find me still waiting when he returned. He laughed but I was convinced he had gotten my point. He proceeded to take me through all the remaining steps. In about a week I had my landline working.
There was a time their network kept dropping, and at some point it became so bad that I acquired a Kencell line (soon to be Celtel, Zain and now Airtel). I think there was even news of two guys who had gone to the extent of suing Safaricom. From that time on, I suspect that is why we have the ‘terms and conditions apply’ statement in most of the ads we hear from these guys. My Safaricom line has been postpaid for a very long time. A few months after acquiring a Kencell line, my Safaricom line was disconnected in error. I had paid a bill on time but between Standard Chartered Bank and Safaricom, that record disappeared and because of that my line was disconnected. For most of the morning that day I could not make phone calls on my Safaricom line. My Kencell line which was prepaid became the main line I was using for making calls and I made so many of them that by 12 noon I had used up a stupid amount of airtime, like 4k, calling Safaricom lines. At this point my blood was boiling. I decided I was going to go to Safaricom and camp there until my issue was resolved. I carried bank statements and cheque stubs indicating the date I made the payment and proving that my account had been debited and that there was no reason why I should be disconnected. From the moment I entered the building, you would have thought I had come there on behalf of all the workers of Bamburi, Kenya Airways and the NSIS put together. I screamed over and over at several members of staff trying to calm me down. After talking for a while with each of them I would scream “Can I talk to your supervisor? It is clear that you do not understand my situation enough to know what to do about it”. I was prepared to go all the way to Michael Joseph if that is what it took.
At home we once had a dog (silly digression, but humour me for a while). I remember how scared people would be on seeing it. One of the things we learnt as a family about dogs is that they can sense fear. If a dog senses that you are scared of it, it will get more aggressive. But if you speak with authority to it, showing no fear, it would in turn respect you if not even fear you. They can also sense if you dislike them and that also has the effect of aggravating them (ok so maybe this particular dog we had had issues but I think this may be true of most of them)
Anyway, at Safaricom, (like our dog), I found I was very aggressive against any person who came to calm me down but gave the impression that they were scared of me. At some point they even sent a friend of mine who was working there to try to explain to me what had happened. She told me that they had realized where the problem was and were trying to resolve it as soon as possible, but while they were doing so the entire network seems to have gone on the blink. So she had been sent to me to explain this. I uttered many words some of which I cannot remember but I think I must have sounded like a completely spoilt brat. After a while she came back and told me that because of the fact that I was there personally, they had connected me on a separate backup network that covers the likes of State House and other essential services temporarily while they sort out the normal network. I remember leaving the place feeling so important.
3. Kenya Power and Lighting Co.
Anyone who has spent time on twitter or facebook knows that this is an easy target and punching bag. KPLC has borne the brunt of all manner of jokes and insults in these social networks. From “mpango wa candle” to being named Kenya Paraffin Lamps and Candles. One dark time in our house, I got tired of the persistent blackouts that at one point I drove all the way from South C to Stima Plaza in Parklands at night and sat at their control room. I insisted that I they did not come to sort out the power in our house, they should show me a fridge where I would keep all our groceries especially meat until they did. The first two hours were easy. After that one supervisor who had passed me several times finally came and sat next to me and asked me what the issue was. I told him that in addition to being aggrieved as a client, I was now being ignored and it was only making things worse. He empathised with me so much. I could see that he felt me. He told me he was a Christian and could not imagine all the loss and inconvenience I was facing. At some point I thought he was going to burst into song. Long story short, he radioed some guys and I gave them directions to our place and we were able to save our meat.
But these are the big companies. I have also had bad experiences with very small establishments.
4. One of those “we cut up serviettes” restaurants.
I don’t know about you but it really pisses me off when I go to a restaurant and they serve food with half or a quarter of a serviette. It just reeks of mediocrity and is the clearest form of impunity I know in the food industry. If a restaurant will cut corners in such a blatant and visible manner, who is to say what other areas the are cutting corners in? Could they be serving donkey meat since it may be cheaper? Don’t even get me started on those that have cutlery that looks like it can be blown off the table by a gust of wind together with the miniskirt of a serviette it is wearing. I honestly wonder whether some of the owners of such restaurants can even sit in them and have a meal. In one of such experiences I asked to see the manager immediately. When she came I was surprised to see that she looked decent, actually smart. I bitched vehemently about sharing my serviette with three other customers and said it would even be better if they asked people to come with their own forks. I was really upset. Why would you invest so much money in equipment and staff then spend two shillings on forks and try to spend as close to zero as possible on serviettes? I assured her that if the business grew into something really big, it would not be because of savings on serviettes and that if it ever flopped it would not be because of spending too much on serviettes. She of course made all manner of apologies and promises of a better experience in the future but of course I did not believe her.
Pastor Oscar once said that if you want to know the standard of a restaurant, you should have a look at its toilets. If they do not take care of the places where all customers can see, you can be sure that they feel nothing about the kitchen which customers never get to see.
5. Photocopy shop
I once needed to make three copies urgently. I was served by a very tired looking pregnant lady. I could tell how much effort she was putting in pressing every single button and at some point I thought she was going to go into labour in the process. I even thought of helping her. When she finally finished and asked me for six shillings, her face changed when I handed her a one hundred shilling note. I was so sure her water had broken and I even looked down for evidence of it.
“Don’t you have small change?” she shouted.
I tried to explain that that was the smallest note I had. She would hear none of it. She angrily threw back my money and my original document, tore up the photocopies and threw them into the waste paper basket and told me to go get copies elsewhere.
I have no words.
What are your experiences like?