Hello, Vodacom?

August 31, 2015 § 23 Comments

Oh, Vodacom. I had such high hopes for you. I thought that you cared about your image, your reputation, the perception out there in the marketplace.

But your behaviour seems to show the opposite, and now I’m not sure what to think.

You see, Vodacom, you may or may not have noticed that there are a lot of customers out there who are unhappy with the way their data usage has suddenly, overnight, without explanation or warning or a change in their phone or other device habits, escalated to completely unreasonable levels.

I too, had some data disappear mysteriously from my iPad – the one with the cell signal switched off. Like, completely off, which is when I decided to conduct a little experiment. But let me not repeat myself. I screenshotted the tweets I sent to you over a week ago. Here’s the first one (and do read from the bottom up, or they will make no sense).

Vodacom1

I think I’m quite good at storytelling, don’t you? But wait! There’s more! Here’s the next screenshot – again, read from the bottom. (I’m only explaining because I don’t want you to miss anything.)

Vodacom2

This caused something of a flurry. I got a call from your social media person, a lovely woman who assured me you would be ‘escalating’ my query. And that it was something of a mystery that my data had dropped slightly, especially since I turned my cell data off as I went to bed on 31 July and cleared and rebooted everything. Look, here’s an updated screenshot – explain that? I have not turned the cell signal back on since that night.

Vodacom4

And I’m waiting with bated breath to see if my data really does carry over for one month as the person who sold me the SIM card in your Vodashop told me it would. Tomorrow’s going to be so exciting!

But I digress. Back to your lovely social media person. She admitted it was a mystery. She promised me she would ‘escalate’ my query and make it a priority. She sent me a reference number. But what perturbed me was how she sometimes said, “Look, I’m going to be honest with you…” Are your staff members normally not honest with customers? Is that how you train them? To spin the bad news? To put the blame back on the customer?

Oh no, wait! That’s you! Because a few days later you helpfully put out this information. There was a more direct article posted by you, but I can’t find it now. And I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I call bullshit. Because it doesn’t really explain my (admittedly small) data loss. It doesn’t explain how a friend managed to use 1GB of data while his phone was off and in a safe, and he was on an operating table having surgery. It doesn’t explain my boss’s exorbitant data bill on a device that was lying at home for a weekend. So you’ll pardon me if I don’t buy the ‘no buffering and LTE’ explanation.

But what’s possibly more concerning is the disregard you show your customers. And it’s not just me who thinks so. Here’s another screen shot of just some of the responses I got to my original tweet tirade. There are lots more, but it would be quite boring to post them all here. I’m sure you get the idea.

Vodacom3

Because you know that ‘priority’, ‘escalated’ query I got a reference number for eight days ago? Not a peep. Haven’t heard a word. Imagine the poor bastards who didn’t get escalated, prioritised queries. How long has it been? Are their dessicated skeletons sitting by the phone still waiting for you to deliver basic customer service? Or have they called you and simply been fobbed off by a carefully crafted, patronising call centre script?

My dear friend and PR maven Keri-Ann Stanton has suggested we mobilise (see what I did there?) South African citizens to have a data-free day. I’m seriously considering it. Have you worked out how much money you’d lose if a big number of us turned our data off for a day? Oh wait! It wouldn’t make a difference, because we lose data when our phones are off anyway! Silly me.

But anyhoo, I’m a solutions girl, so I thought I’d help you with your communication. Because you seem to be struggling in this area. (Oh, the irony – what is it that telecomms do again?)

  1. There’s a difference between polite and patronising. Customers can tell the difference, and we know when we’re the victim of spin.
  2. If your improved service (greater speed, LTE, etc) is going to have an impact on people’s data usage, don’t you think it would be courteous to inform them? (If that is, indeed, the reason. I’m still not convinced given that data disappears on devices that are switched off.)
  3. Stop using words like ‘escalate’ (vomit) and ‘prioritise’ if your plan is to ignore customer complaints in the hope they’ll get tired and go away. (They might. I won’t.)
  4. Talk to people as if they’re people. And don’t turn around and blame us when there’s a problem. Because really, all the indications are that there’s been a problem and that you guys are covering it up.
  5. Give us some credit for being vaguely intelligent, sentient human beings.
  6. Get back to people within a reasonable time frame. Eight days is not a reasonable time frame.
  7. How about you give us the itemised billing version of data use? I bet it’s possible. This is the age of technology!
  8. Take responsibility, be accountable, be transparent – you know, all those things we complain about from government. You’re really not doing any better, and we all know that’s not a compliment.
  9. Nothing will garner customers’ loyalty like a service provider that listens, and does the right thing. Not the thing the accountants and actuaries advise.

I think that’s enough for now. I don’t want to tax your thought processes too much. I know you need them to come up with more spin.

But it’d be nice if you actually got back to me sometime before Christmas on my escalated, prioritised query. Think you can manage that?

Please note: Large portions of this blog post have been typed in sarcasm font.

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Dream the beloved country

August 30, 2015 § 2 Comments

It’s easy to get down in the dumps about South Africa. All you have to do is open the newspaper, switch on the TV news or read social media, and in no time at all you’ll be convinced that there is no hope.

Or, when the onslaught of bad news threatens to overwhelm you, if you live in Johannesburg, you can go down to Zoo Lake on a Sunday afternoon in spring.

And if you do this; if you drive to the lake and take a stroll, and you pay attention, you start to see what our country could look like. It’s a reminder that despite the farcical behaviour of our elected leaders, and all the pseudo-intellectual nitpicking about a myriad ‘offensive’ issues that take up column and online space daily, that it’s only part of the story.

Because at Zoo Lake you will see people – ordinary South Africans – enjoying an afternoon out together. There are cricket stumps and soccer balls, and children on bicycles. There are headscarves and hotpants and head wraps like fabric sculptures atop slender, strong necks. There is every shade of skin, of eyes, of hair. Old and young smile and nod their greetings: a tiny fat hand waves wildly at everyone who passes.

Footsteps are slow and careful, or carefree and quick. There are hands in hands, and infants in arms. A group of toddlers are holding a dance party, their nappied bums twitching this way and that. A tiny stripey sock lies forgotten on the pathway here; a fallen ice-cream slowly trickles over the pavement there. A man with a single maraca shakes out complicated rhythms from his perch on a green bench.

The smell of smoke and sizzling meat drifts over from a hundred different fires. People in boats hoot and squeal while beatboxes blare and bay for your attention. Geese waddle greedily from one packet of crusts to the next, an ice-cream vendor shakes his tinny bell.

And you could notice that the water doesn’t smell so great today. Or that some people have littered, and that there’s a group of students being tipsily loud. But if you look beyond that, what you see is a picture of what South Africa could still be. Of what – quite possibly – it actually is when you step back from the doom and gloom of what traditional and social media preach at us daily. What you hear on the warmth of the afternoon breeze is the sound of fun, of family, of laughter and love and life. Of ordinary people just getting along.

It’s just a snapshot, yes. There are problems and challenges and hurdles to overcome. But we have a dream. It’s a good dream. And it’s a dream we can achieve.

We just have to remember, and to keep dreaming, and to do something small every day to ensure that we get there.

Endings

August 27, 2015 § 38 Comments

Tomorrow I will go to court, and when I leave, I will no longer be married. Tomorrow, part of the way I have defined myself for half of my 46 years will be gone. Tomorrow I will be divorced.

I’m struggling to wrap my head around it. I’m not sure what I expected to feel, but this isn’t it. It’s all slightly surreal.

Divorce will school you in ambiguity, in loss of control, in living the questions. Divorce will pelt you with things you never thought you would ever have to face. You will learn that some days all you can do is focus on now, on this moment, right here. For now you are okay. For now you have enough. For now you are enough.

Because if you think too often about the future, about what still has to be done, arranged, separated and divvied up, it can overwhelm you. The anxiety will pool at the base of your throat and threaten to submerge you in its thick, loud thrum.

There are days when you feel like you’re on the edge of a canyon so deep and dark and cold, the ground so unstable beneath your feet, that the tiniest thing might cause you to lose your grip. There are days when fear’s clammy tendrils feel like cats’ claws on the inside of your chest.

And what will take you by surprise is the grief – even if this is something you want; even if it’s something you chose. You will mourn the loss of the dreams you tucked away in the folds of your heart. You will mourn the passing of who you once were. Because this was not part of the plan on the day you took someone’s hand and looked into their eyes and made promises you fully expected to keep.

Divorce isn’t an easy way out, make no mistake. And the disentanglement process is a bizarre mix of cold and clinical on one hand, and raw and emotional on the other. There are no means, no averages, no middle grounds. You swing from extreme to extreme like a pendulum operated by a sneering, vicious clown.

I’ve turned small corners where I’ve felt like I’m healing, like I’m seeing the first rays of sun peeping over the horizon, God’s fingers pointing out the vastness of the skies’ possibility. A day has come where I’ve noticed a jauntiness in my step; patches of technicolor bleeding through the sepia, and the scent of jasmine on a warm breeze.

And then suddenly, this. The night before the day when it will all be over – in the legal sense, at any rate. Another milestone on the journey reached. And I am plunged back into that skin-crawling place of anxiety, of fear, of what-ifs and worries and wild imaginings.

But underneath it all there’s a sense of peace. This is a strange kind of ending, more like a slow sloughing off of skin than a clean break. But every ending heralds a new beginning – even if it takes some time. Somehow, somewhere, in a future moment, I will be okay.

I don’t give up easily; I never have. And that’s one thing that won’t change.

Where Am I?

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