10.04.07

An Open Letter to Wataniya’s Customer Service Manager

Posted in Business, Kuwait at 4:50 pm by Haider

Dear Customer Service Manager,

I recently cancelled my W-Net subscription due to the terrible customer service I received, and thought I should share with you my thoughts about Wataniya’s customer service, and what you will need to do about it so that you can stop losing your customers.

I was happily using my W-Net device for a few months, until I changed my laptop, and my device was no longer usable. I am not sure why I did not purchase another device at the time, or contact Wataniya to explain my problem. I admit that this is an error on my part. Also, it was wrong of me to stop paying for the service, seeing that I was still subscribed, but I did not see that it made sense to pay for a service that I wasn’t using. I admit that I did not make the right decisions. However, having put myself in my awkward position, I was hoping that Wataniya would a) attempt to understand my situation b) consider a solution that is beneficial to both parties, or c) explain the impossibility of (b), should such a situation exist.

Since I was under contract to subscribe to the service for one year, it would have been feasible for Wataniya to pardon me for not paying for the months in which I did not use the service, but expect me to extend my subscription for a few extra months so that I complete a full year of used service. This solution seemed impossible for your customer service staff member to understand, or even consider. And if you think the same way, then the root of the problem is deeper than I thought.

But rather than apologising for the fact that Wataniya could not make such an arrangement (which I don’t see why they cannot), or even try to explain to me why it was not possible, or even check with her superior if it was possible, the customer service employee demanded that I pay the amount I had to pay, and in full. When I tried to explain my situation, she replied (with the now funny response): “It’s not the company’s fault.”

The saying “the customer is always right” may have been worn out, but it expresses a truth that all customer service departments, managers and staff need to understand and focus on: the company exists to serve its customers in the best way possible, for the customer, and not for the company. The company exists for the customers, but the customers don’t exist for the company. But by offering the best customer service possible, both customers and the company get to benefit, and you wouldn’t end up losing customers because of their bad experience. I used to recommend the W-Net service to family and friends, but you can be sure that I will no longer do that. In fact, I will begin to warn people about seeking the services of a company that does not care about the interests of its customers.

The behaviour of the customer service employee seems funny now that I’m not one of your customers, but I have pity for your company and your customers, which is why I would like to share some advice with you, in the hope that you can improve your customers’ experience of your services:

- No need to find who to blame:

It is interesting how the employee that “served” me insisted that I was the one in the wrong, and how I should pay for my mistakes. The truth is, companies should not put their customers in the position of guilt, or feel happy that their customers are the ones to blame for the problem. Blame is not an issue, and your employee should neither feel defensive, or need to get offensive. Rather than focus on who to blame, she should have thought about what can be done to make my experience positive, and seek a solution that best serves the customer and the company.

- Applying rules while blind to reality:

A common problem encountered by many customers is when the customer service staff don’t bother to understand the nature of the problem, but instead seek to apply a set of rigid rules that they cannot see as being impractical and unnecessary. So what if my subscription is monthly, and I wish to skip a few months because I had personal issues? How does that affect the company? And can’t Wataniya understand that it’s painful for a customer to pay for a service that he has not used, or can’t it attempt to find a solution in which the customer gets to enjoy the service that he is paying for?

I still remember the time my brother paid for an annual membership in a climbing centre, and when he injured his arm, he did not go for a few months. The centre called him to ask why he has not been visiting the centre. He informed them about his condition, and they were willing to refund him his money for the months that he did not visit the centre! Instead, he suggested that they offer me and my brother-in-law an extension to our memberships, to which they complied.

This shows how the centre was flexible with its rules because it was more interested in best serving their customers, rather than making a profit for a service that their customers did not use, or sticking to rules that did not make any sense to the customer. It also shows how my brother was willing to see them profit because of their customer service, which is why he suggested a solution that had them keep the money that he paid.

- Should be interested in retaining your customers:

All the employees I contacted at Wataniya were not interested in keeping me as a customer. Maybe because they’re used to having people terminate their subscriptions, and they no longer have the energy to attempt to keep their customers. However, it also reveals how much interest they have in their customers. The woman I spoke to seemed to enjoy the idea that I would be cancelling my subscription. It would seem that she thought that it was a “victory” for her, for having me comply with her rules. But this, again, shows how “highly” your employees think of their customers.

- Everybody is a potential customer:

You may think that if a person can no longer make use of your services, then you will not be interested in him as a customer. However, everyone is a potential customer. A person who may not need your services at the moment may need it in the future. To treat those who are currently not in need of your services as useless individuals not only prevents them from considering your services again, but you can be sure that they will spread the word about how horrible your treatment is.

- Customer service covers the entire customer experience:

Many companies assume that their customer service department is the one responsible for customer service. But this is not true. The fact is, the customer judges the service of a company based on his entire experience of that company. This means that any interaction with the company constitutes a customer service. Solving technical problems is a customer service (interestingly, I found that Wataniya’s technical staff to be more friendly and helpful than the employee that’s specialized for customer service and “PR”). Therefore, you shouldn’t assume that your responsibility ends where other departments begin. Your responsibility is to monitor the entire customer experience, and to see how to improve your customer’s experience in every way.

- A smile would be nice:

A smile and nice words are pleasant additions to the customer experience, but they do not form the basis of customer service. An employee who can only smile and say sweet things does not solve the problems your customers face. These things certainly influence the experience, but they are not primary. Companies shouldn’t be fooled by the idea that their customer service is great because of how their employees smile, or that they have a customer service department, or by the number of times the employee says: “inshallah” or “is there anything else I can help you with?” If the employee isn’t helpful or pleasant, then you know that your customers certainly don’t want another service from him, or her.

The woman I spoke to from the customer service department never even bothered to smile, or use any pleasant words. She didn’t express any care or concern, and made me uncomfortable simply trying to speak to her. There isn’t a single service or gesture that she made, which could lead me to say that she was worth my wait or my efforts. The only thing she did was have me wait once again in line so that I can speak to a technical support staff, who happened to be far more helpful and pleasant than she was.

This is all I have to say for now. I’m sure that I speak for many people who have had bad experiences with your customer service staff, but I hope that you will learn from my experience on how to improve your services. And with talk of a third telecommunication company to be set up in Kuwait, if Wataniya continues to have such horrible customer service, we will end up with only two telecommunications companies, but Wataniya will not be one of them.

I hope this letter will help you realise the grave problem you are facing, and has shed some light on the solutions you can implement to solve this problem.

I wish you and your customers all the best.

Haider

3 Comments »

  1. Customer Service Lesson to Learn said,

    October 4, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    [...] friend of mine wrote this open letter to the Manager of Customer Service at Wataniya, in a hope to give slight better service to the [...]

  2. Ralf Wilmes said,

    March 15, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Haider, my compliments for this one.
    You know, I happen to be an operational manager of one of those customer service call centers..
    What a pity the company policy does not foresee internet access, so I could send this link to my staff!
    Ralf

  3. Haider said,

    March 15, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Ralf, I’m glad you liked it :)

    Rather than vent my anger, I thought I should explain what customer service means so they get to change their policies, and so other companies can benefit.

    It’s a shame you can’t share the site with your staff, but you might wanna raise the points I mentioned to them.

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