Ignoring customers is a big risk

After the death Steve Jobs, attention was quickly turned towards Apple’s chief rival in the smart phone market, Research in Motion (RIM) a Canadian tech firm that manufactures the Blackberry brand of phones. Unfortunately, this attention was not for a good reason.  Last week, Blackberry phone users mainly in Africa, Asia and South America endured frustration following a technical glitch that saw customers’ messaging and email service disrupted.

After the death Steve Jobs, attention was quickly turned towards Apple’s chief rival in the smart phone market, Research in Motion (RIM) a Canadian tech firm that manufactures the Blackberry brand of phones. Unfortunately, this attention was not for a good reason.

Last week, Blackberry phone users mainly in Africa, Asia and South America endured frustration following a technical glitch that saw customers’ messaging and email service disrupted.

The problem, which lasted for about three days was said to have been caused by a fault at RIM’s servers in the UK.

This temporary interruption of service was the main talk on social media platforms like Twitter with some even urging the Blackberry users to switch to either the iPhone or HTC and any other Android powered phone. There was even a trending topic on Twitter related to the above. Imagine trending on Twitter for the wrong reasons. Negative publicity can’t get any worse if you ask me.

As the engineers raced against time to fix the glitch, I took note of something that a tech analyst said on Al Jazeera. According to her, RIM had failed to use the platforms it uses during the good times to ease the pain of the bad times. There was not enough information from the guys at RIM at a time when their loyal clients were suffering.

This created a sense of anger especially because owners of Blackberry phones are usually IT geeks who need to stay in touch all the time. And so the impact of such an interruption cannot be tolerated even for a moment. What the tech analyst on Al Jazeera was blaming RIM for is not using social media to inform clients of what exactly was going on and assurance that something was being done to fix the problem.

Well the problem was eventually fixed but I hope other people in business can pick the lesson. Never abandon your clients in a time of need. Actually it is during such times that information ought to be flowing very well so as to show that a company has compassion or concern for its clients.

I know many of you can still remember the time when Rwanda had one mobile phone service provider, MTN Rwanda and when you would get a problem, you could only be attended to (customer care number) during working hours. Imagine the frustration when you would buy airtime and you fail to load it at 9pm and when you call the customer care number you were told to call back during working hours, in other words the following day.

With competition both service providers now have 24 hour customer care services and clients are assured of help whenever they need it. These companies know the importance of maintaining a good relationship with your clients especially when they are facing a problem. This time is crucial.

It much easier for one to switch brand loyalty during times of distress and so ignoring such a person is nothing but economic suicide for a company that intends to maintain and grow its customer base. When systems are down, be proactive not reactive. The moment you notice a problem start speaking to your clients. Do not wait for them to complain.

ssenyonga@gmail.com

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