NCA must save us from Telcos’ incompetent customer service Robots

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Spining

The mandated universal channel by which all mobile phone users in Ghana can reach their telecom services provider is by calling the common customer service line, 100, no matter the network you use.

Ordinarily, when you call 100, you are supposed to be able to eventually get someone to speak with and get your specific issue addressed. Indeed, until recently, when you call 100, getting someone to speak with was very easy. But now things have changed a whole lot.

Even though 100 is mandated by regulation for telcos to receive and attend to customer complaints, it would appear that the telcos are increasingly handing over communication on that channel to robots (artificial intelligence tools) rather than humans. So when you call 100, it has become very difficult to get a human being to attend to your complaint, even if your specific challenge does not fall under any of the categories listed on the robot’s menu.

The most frustrating part is when the system automatically terminates the call even though you originated the call and your complaint has not yet been addressed. It is quite rude on the part of those who built that AI system because it is basic telephone manners for the caller rather than the recipient to terminate the call. Again, it is basic customer service practice for the service provider to ensure that the customer’s issue is addressed before ending the call. But this new AI system has no regard for any of these basic requirements.

This practice started with Vodafone Ghana, when they introduced their customer service robot called ToBi during the outbreak of Covid-19. They claim ToBi has helped to resolve lots of customer issues. They are yet to share the success stories and use cases. But there have been many instances where ToBi failed to resolve complaints and yet rudely terminated calls made by customers. I have had a personal experience.

One would have thought that where the robot is unable to address a particular issue, it would be intelligent enough to then refer the matter for human intervention. In other words, the robot should be complimentary rather than the final resort.

All this is happening right under the nose of the industry regulator, National Communications Authority. The industry players are taking advantage of the drift towards digitalization to deny customers of very much needed human interventions in specific cases, particularly on the mandated universal customer service line, 100.

As if that is not bad enough, Vodafone in particular, has even handed over its social media channels to ToBi the robot. So when you send a message to Vodafone via WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter or even the myVodafone App, you will get template responses pre-fed to ToBi the chatbot. Once ToBi runs out of responses he just leaves you in the woods with no solution. ToBi is not smart enough to do the next sensible thing – hand over to a more competent entity – a human being.

Gradually, MTN is also getting there as they prepare to go fully digital by 2023. Currently, on short code 100, it is virtually impossible to get anyone to speak to on MTN. Their social media channels have a human face though, but it appears that over time, even that will also go to the robots.

We look forward to some intervention from the regulator to ensure that human customers are not left at the mercy of supposedly smart robots who are not smart enough to know when they have failed to address a particular complaint.

In the meantime, here are a list of channels by which you can contact your telco when you have a complaint, particularly when 100 fails.

Find below three separate lists of channels for MTN, Vodafone and AirtelTigo respectively. If any of those channels fail, there is a fourth list by which you can reach out to the NCA and file a complaint.

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In case all the three fail, contact NCA as follows details above

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