To give our opinions and raise debate on various Information and Communication Technology issues especially those pertinent to Ghana and Africa.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Branding versus Service Provision
This post is my first after a long absence from blogging on either of my co-authored blogs. This means it must be an issue which has really left a big impression on me. It is based on a personal experience, which is what most of my new blogs will center on; Personal everyday experiences put into a business or technology context.
This blog is about my observation (or perception, I stand corrected) that Ghanaian companies are spending a disproportionate amount of money on branding compared to service provision, when it should be the reverse.
Klustrs.com, the first product of the fledgling start up Justin and I have began, is almost ready and last Tuesday (November 4) due to the unavailability of both the regular paid access and the free wireless internet service at Justin's hostel (Yes people, he's still in school) we decided to get our own ‘internet’ connection .
Our immediate choice was to get a fixed wireless phone from GT/Vodafone since there was an ongoing promotion (GHC 40 price) and we had been consistently bombarded with radio and TV ad campaigns about its features and flexibility. ‘Internet’ connection (actually GPRS) is an additional GHC 40 per month, so we got GHC 80 from an ATM (sorry not E-zwich, still VISA) and walked into the GT customer care center in Adum. I was excited since the entrance had Vodafone posters just to remind you of the new face of GT.
Alas (see how they’ve forced me to use such an OLD word!), upon inquiring we were informed there were no units available, we should come back on Thursday. Actually the response was either “wehave run out of stock and would receive some units from Accra soon” or “we have some in stock but they are not yet properly configured” I was so disappointed I don’t remember . The funny thing is although my mind screamed,” WHAT, come on!”, I felt deep down that I had expected it that,Walk in, Walk out, might just have been too good. I must however praise the person I spoke with, she did scribble a contact number for me on a piece of paper to call two days later to check if the units have arrived. Carefully inspection of the paper revaled the reverse had all the personal contact details (phone,post address, home adress,place of work of a customer!) but thats another post.
We walked out and immediately started complaining (EH! TOO KNOWN BOYS) about how companies spend millions building brands and advertising and then pour it down the drain through poor service provision. Guess what flashed into view as we walked on,KASAPA’s office! In we went, to get a similar phone (called the Home Work phone).
Two things happened in the KASAPA office;
Their service was inappropriate since the ‘internet’ (CDMA data service) was pay-as-you-go at 0.04Gpper minute which computes to about GHC 2.4 per hour.
It was proved beyond doubt that I am ‘TOO Known’! Actually what happened was, when we met the person in charge my first question was, what are the different options for your‘data plan’ (EH ALASKA!). He goes like ‘huh?’, Oh no, you see KASAPA uses CDMA technology and we have several great features………, I stopped him in the middle and said actually all we need is the data options to assess if we can afford their service. Still staring at me (thinking who is the CRaZy guy), Justin said ‘Internet’, and Voila! He says yes, it can connect to the internet……back to our main story.
Having been disappointed by GT, priced out by KASAPA (I’m not saying the price is outrageous, just inappropriate for a net freak like me!), we decided to try TIGO,Express Yourself ( I love their ads) , just down the street.
We get to Tigo and I step up to a lovely young lady and ask about their Data SIM Cards (This “DATA” again?), she responded by stating the price, ¢900,000 (GHC 90.00). Her response made it sound as if the SIM Card alone was GHC 90.00, so I asked for clarification. Her facial expression changed (not so lovely now) and just as she was staring at me with a ‘Get a Life’ look, an elderly man seated in a queue (Bless Him!) explained: GHC 20.00 for registration,GHC 70.00 as credit against a customer account.
That sounded more reasonable than GHC 90.00 for a SIM card albeit a DATA SIM card. I thanked the man, turned and smiled at the girl (flirting with the enemy or sarcasm,choose one) and walked out where Justin was waiting.
1. Ghana Telecom/Vodafone :
Spend big Cedis on Ad campaigns and then consequently waste it by not observing simple inventory management rules: Stock Re-order Levels, which would have led to better service provision . CONSEQUENCE: They lost a customer who walked straight to a competitor.
Not much they did wrong but;
a. The personnel should know more about the industry than 'TOO KNOWN' customers like me. Data plan, data options, et cetera should equate to 'internet' in the mind of th person in charge of the primary device for delivering internet access on your network.
b. How do you the ‘Underdog’ compete against your bigger competitors? Better services all round including Data services. GT has fixed monthly payment plans, why not Kasapa?
A bad day for the primary contact between a potential customer and your services can be disastrous especially when they withhold relevant information about a service from the customer. Fix it so they have less bad days, or you monitor them and take out the ones who always have a bad day (Some people are just always angry)
To conclude, the telecommunications industry is a service based industry and the perceptions of the customer although influenced by branding, is ultimately won through the best service provision and service fulfillment, almost always. I love the GTand TIGO ads but ultimately I need services delivered as promised.
GLO or ZAIN to the rescue or better yet the Juggernaut that GT/VODAFONE represents on paper must become reality soon.
Please Comment on the following?
Am I wrong, does Branding influence you more than Service provision?
Am I being too critical about companies building brands in neglect of actual service provision and fulfillment?
Is Alaska TOO KNOWN? Vote Y for ‘Yes’ and N for ‘No’