Samoa and poor customer service

By Orlando Huaman* 19 February 2019, 12:00AM

In general, let me say, that there is no good customer service in Samoa. 

Despite of the fact that several intents has been made by the Chamber of Commerce and others to educate the business community and the government agencies; the customer service is way below what we expect in other advanced countries; of which we are one, but apparently Just in name.

Most of the positions in Samoa are made to interact with the public (customer) without a trace of training. I can count with the fingers of my hand the few businesses that provide passable customer service. 

Most of the employees are indifferent, looking the other way and unavailable when one customer really need some help about an article  that can’t be located by him/her. Not even a hint of a smile. Least a “Hi. Welcome to the store, may I help you?”.

It is the general belief, not only here, but everywhere around the world, that the purpose of any business is to make money. (More on this wrong belief below). That is the answer I get when I ask a businessman in town.

His/her answer: “to make money, of course.” By the same token, no matter how many times I have written about that “you don’t learn from your mistakes” yet, too many people to count, stick to the belief that they can learn from their mistakes. 

That includes intelligent people and not so intelligent as well.

But I can bet my last red penny that they can’t explain to me, and most of all, convince me, how they go about learning from their own mistake. Let us say, for a crime they have committed and ended up at Tafaigata Hotel. Yes, I say hotel because from time to time certain “innocent” inmates think that they deserve a break, literally a break, and see the outside of the wall. The Minister and the P.C. think they do too.

By the way, there is no such thing as a secure prison, just like there is no justice in this world, only injustice. Take el “Chapo” and other hard criminals have and are proving that if the criminal make up his mind to escape, he will do it sooner or later.

And so many other have escaped from the so-called “high security” prison-like Sing Sing. That, by way of a tunnel or a helicopter (not needed in Samoa, just tell the sumo wrestlers guards you will be back in a few days, and they let you go).

 Or plain bribing to dishonest prison guard. Let us not be blind to the fact that any individual walking on the face of this planet has a price. Not even a president of a country is immune to that, if we believe the accusers of el “Chapo”. 

To get back to the poor customer service by a popular local ISP. To repeat the above saying: The purpose of a business is not to make money, but to nurture a customer Those wise words were said by Dr. Simonson, Nobel Prize in Economics years back. He also said: Customer is king.

That makes sense, because without customers no money is rolling into the coffers. It also makes sense to treat your customers nicely and say hi every time you see somebody entering your store, to buy or to look around. A smile is free; and takes less  face muscles than a frown face. An Arab proverb tell us: “If you can’t smile, do not open a store.”

 Let me present my naked case to justify my disappointment with the very poor customer service of one of the most popular networks in town. 

People in Samoa do not complain much about anything, (we need more M.P. like Olo Fiti Va’ai, even a cloned one) that is what we called the “silent majority”, they live  their life in quiet desperation (no water tanks, no electricity, immoral minimum low wages, corruption, wait, wait! There is no corruption in Samoa, right Mr. P.M. etc. A foreign flag on a project?  Next time we will have the foreign anthem of the country doing the project, at full blast!)

 In other countries, they have strikes, walk out, or work stoppage, like Russia, Romania, Libya, France, Italy heads of dictators and abusing Kings have rolled unmercifully. Now, repeat after me: “no people’s power in Samoa.”

For the past 8 years I have been a regular customer as an internet user. Before with an 89 tala it could cover me for the entire month, for which I paid. Not anymore.

But just in the 4 months back not only the price was raised to 99 tala or a 100 depending who gives you the invoice; my internet stopped working in one case only after 3 weeks and in another month only two weeks. If I complain they say I used up all my megabites - this – listen to this- despite of the fact that before I was paying for 9 gigabites, now they raised to 15 and from 89 to 100 tala. Talking about cheap internet, ha, ha.

Since I do a lot of research and depend heavily on the internet use everyday, I feel enormously frustrated when no internet connection just after 2-3 weeks.

So in order for me to continue with my tasks I approach again their office and they advise me to buy more data to take to the end of the month-usually an extra 20 tala that buys 6 megabites.

To add insult to injure, on Monday 21 of January my internet lost connection at 6pm. Promptly on Tuesday morning I showed up at their office on the second floor and without any dissatisfaction I said please give me 20 tala of data to take me to the end of the month of January. 

So I dutifully paid my 20 tala. But wait. Unlike any other business where you pay for something you can start using and enjoying your buy right away. Not with this company. As a general rule, they never connect you to the internet the day you pay, but usually the next day, in the afternoon. This in despite of my “annoying’ them by calling them about my connection. 

But From Tuesday January 22 to Monday the 28 of January (7 days) my laptop was never connected to the Internet, yet it was all paid for. So on Tuesday the 29th of January I showed up at the company office on the second floor.

A lady assured me that if I just paid my 20 tala the connection will be ready when I get home. In fact it did. And she said. If you have problems with your internet call this number. This, I learned after 8 years of using the internet. Wow! 

Now, listen to this. At this particular meeting, she never mentioned to me that the reason I don’t get connected right away is that I owed them money. So on Tuesday the 29th my internet was on when I got home late in the afternoon.

But they cut it again at 6pm. Three days of internet usage and my 20 tala extra were gone for good. But in this occasion and talking to the same lady, she mentioned that my connection cutting is due to the fact that I owed money. When I asked how much, she mentioned like 475 tala. Now this is the second time that this debt is brought to my attention; then dismissed. Now it comes back again. Poor financial record management indeed! 

By the way they never apologized for not connecting my internet for 7 days. That a very rude way to treat a loyal customer for the past 8 years, Is it?

Am I forgetting something? Yes. Years back three men were sent to my house to fix the internet antenna on the roof. When they finished, they asked me to give them 150 tala. I told them I had to go to the bank.

Right away I had the chance to bring my complaint to the attention of the Chairman. He told me that no company employee is authorized to request payment while on the field. Were they reprimanded? Who knows? They might pull the trick on others unsuspected customers.

To finish my piece, let me quote Ambrose Bierce. He says: “Corporation, an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.” Money is not everything, customer satisfaction is everything! Would I recommend this ISP to a new comer, no way José! Remember: the best salesman is a satisfied customer!

Wait. There is some more about the same. The other network in town, also known by all of us, are not saints either in the consumer service territory. In fact, when I moved to Samoa in 2004, I used their services.

But when due to the malfunction of one its gadgets (400 tala I paid for it) and replacing it with  a cheap used one and sending two untrained employees to fix it. They did not. Yet, they billed me over thousand tala.

Of course, I was not going to pay such ridiculous amount, but yet they kept sending me the bill for over two years, then stopped. In a nutshell: What I don’t understand is why they cut the service automatically at the end of the month, regardless if you still have some data left? If a customer continues connected, let us say, until the 4th of the next month- that is my case-keep the damn thing connected, I am not running away. And when I paid for the full month the following 4th still there is on day and one half disconnected. That is, they connected me the 6th day afternoon of the paid month running.

The above comments has been delivered to the Chairman of the company. I have still not had a reply. Is that the way to treat an 8 year loyal customer? Better customer service should be your priority, and your best asset.

By Orlando Huaman* 19 February 2019, 12:00AM

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