Category Archives: customer service

Banks on Social Media

This week, Equity Bank went live on twitter – and joined other top bank groups in Kenya in their use of social media to respond to customer issues. About half of Kenya’s 46 banks are now on Twitter ( see this list of local banks on twitter), but as the table below shows,  the number of bank customers likely to use social media is a small fraction of the total numbers.
Social media stats on Kenya’s largest bank groups
While Facebook is a powerful medium for banks to convey news and products promotions (some even tweet links to longer pieces or videos on Facebook, not their own websites)  and get feedback, Twitter is equally as powerful on but for customers  as it gives them the ability to tag a bank manager or CEO’s or any widely watched trend such as  #twitterthumbsup (for good customer service) or #twitterbigstick for bad customer experiences. 
In the Bob Collymore era, Safaricom has raced to be the acknowledged corporate leader in Kenyan social media with 363,337 Facebook fans and two widely followed twitter channels – including one dedicated to customer care issues with over 47,000 followers  – but this is a company with over 19 million customers.

Why Telco Mobile Money wins over M-Banking

Safaricom’s mobile money transfer service M-Pesa is only five years old yet it has about twice as many subscribers as all the bank accounts in Kenya. The numbers are not growing as fast any more and many commercial banks now offer services that link to telco mobile money, or promote their own m-banking platforms, or extend services to customers through agents

But the attraction of mobile phone companies as preferred mobile money wallets is that they have gained customer trust with simple tariff structures. Millions of Kenyans are comfortable sending and receiving money by mobile phone. They know what it costs e.g. Kshs. 30 shillings ($0.40) to send money, and Kshs. 30 to withdraw money on the other end.

But for banks, they enter the mobile phone relationship with a stain in the minds of many of their customers as they have a legacy and history of imposing dozens of fees on their account holders & customers. While there are banks that have no ledger fees (just transaction charges similar to mobile phones Kshs 20 or 30 per transaction) and others that have free ‘mobile’ banking, the legacy of banks is also one of changing customer terms, raising tariffs and interest rates, phasing out services, migrating customers to new costlier services, phasing out services that were promoted as ‘free’, migrating their customers to more expensive options at will.

For comparison, if you leave Kshs 1,000 (~$12) in your M-Pesa account it will be there until you use it, with no phantom charges eating it away (it won’t stay in your phone for 6 months). But if you leave the same Kshs 1,000 in your bank account for a few months, the money will be exhausted by various tariffs like ledger fees, dormant account fees, minimum balance fees and the account will be drained out and shut down. Unfortunately, a similar distrust extends to companies offering third party payment services m-commerce, payments, settlements etc. as they are new or unknown entities to customers until they establish a behaviour pattern with customer tariffs.

This should also be a caution to mobile operators not to shake up their cost structures too often. Safaricom recently changed their M-Pesa tariffs, but by having simple & clear disclosures and not levying hidden or unexplained charges, they will keep the trust that their customers have.

KenCall CEO talks on Customer Service in Kenya

Nicholas Nesbitt is the Founder and CEO of KenCall, the first and most successful of Kenya’s business process outsourcing (BPO) and contact centre services providers.
We had a chat about customer service in Kenya, why it’s so lacking, the cost of providing customer service to corporates and the consequences for corporates who do not engage with their customers


As someone who has lived and worked in the US and now taken on the reins of a service company in Kenya – you have unique insight into what can be done to make it better here. What is wrong with customer service, and why do we get it wrong?

In the tourism sector, Kenyans show very good customer service and are known the world over for this. However this is a practice of only cleaning up house when visitors are coming, and does not apply the rest of the time, or extend to fellow citizens, local customers etc.

Customers, who don’t have much of a choice, get used to a bad level of service, which they tolerate

Industry regulators set standards for companies to follow in terms of delivery in some sectors, but they rarely enforce this.

Some Companies in some sectors show monopolistic tendencies – and define their customer service by that i.e. . they set their market prices that customers will pay, and then set the level of customer service that they can offer based on that price.

Some (banks) may also (falsely) believe that since they have had some customers for so long, these customers are eternally loyal to the bank and will not take their business elsewhere

What can be done to educate the common man? E.g. Banks ask customers to form queues, but these are ignored and impatient customers often ignore these and jump ahead of others being served. Can civic education help her? i.e. let citizens know how they can get served better?
Civic education would help e.g. radio messages that will encourage road courtesy – give way to someone entering traffic, and the next time someone will reciprocate for you

People rarely talk about good customer service (beyond their family & friends), but they will rant and even write online about a bad experience from a particular company
Some companies know this, others don’t know or seem to care what their customers say. This is unfortunate as we live in an age where customers in the US, UK and other countries (including Kenya now) will go online and rant about their bad experiences e.g. on twitter or facebook.

It does not take much for a company to watch or and monitor what’s being said about it online. A proactive company should respond to these negative signals , messages, communications being posted online e.g. notify customers of technical glitch that happened and the steps being taken to fix it.

Also, the youth of today interact online and companies (and politicians) should recognize this in terms of customer service and adjust their messages to reach the youth.

He demonstrated how he uses a program called Incoming, to track what’s being said about KenCall online, as well as other topics such as ‘Tiger Woods’ (golfer) and ‘Raila Odinga’ (Kenya’s Prime Minister) , with hundreds of instant results on screen instantly displayed

Safaricom and KCB (a leading commercial bank) set up call centers for their customers? Did they go wrong by not outsourcing these services? Did they give KenCall a chance to bid for that?

KCB set up a call centre that was about 1/10 the size of KenCall at a cost of 20X what KenCall would have charge them. They did not invite KenCall or other companies to bid. Some companies fear outsourcing for security reasons because of confidentiality of customers data, but this excuse if based on falsehoods – much bigger banks and companies entrust their data to service providers like KenCall the world over, and in any case leaks or security violations are likely to originate from the bank/company itself e.g. G4S, not KenCall. KenCall has the most secure communications links with the company that cannot be intercepted.. also many companies that sign with KenCall and services providers require that this not be disclosed to the public by KenCall

Safaricom talked to KenCall, south African and Indian companies and wanted KenCall to do what they were already doing for Orange/Telkom (Kenya) and Tigo (Tanzania). In the end they decided to do it in house, but at an estimated cost of 200X what KenCall would have cost and about 50X what KenCall would have charged them to run it

What is the take-on cycle at KenCall? If KCB had contracted KenCall how long would it take for KenCall to be ready to handle business?
Perhaps 3 to 6 weeks depending on what KCB wanted. A bank like KCB has many different types of callers with queries ,and they could still use KenCall to share the load e.g. credit cards, or card dealers with technical queries

Kenya government is the largest procurer; we’ve seen large embassies have outsourced their visa duties – do you think Kenya government should do the same? E.g. Manual processes in land office, judiciary?, there’s all this talk of digitizing records..
Absolutely this should happen, the digitizing of public records, outsourcing of services. This can be don even at community level, where young business people can set up BPO centers, now that there is fibre cable, and work with public records e.g. health, digitizing them. The go ahead for this has to come from Nairobi though

Service delivery in government would improve through outsourcing; there’s no need for people to get in buses and travel hundreds of kilometers to obtain simple documents like birth certificates, if this was outsourced and online, it would make government more efficient.

On its part at KenCall prefer to work with outsourced packages that average at least 10,000 calls

Has the arrival of fibre cable changed things for the industry?
Speeds have not changed for many, because you have to pay more. It’s like sipping soda through a straw, but even if your demand goes up, you have to invest in a bigger straw

What do KenCall Customer experience specialist teams do?
They step into a customer’s shoes and interact with KenCall staff the way a customer would and the performance is measured with a view to improving the service that KenCall customers receive

Comment on education gaps in the area of improving customer service
Nesbitt is a board member and deputy chair of the board of the Multimedia University of Kenya (formerly KCCT). They have a vision of becoming a world leading institution and producing talented Kenyans specialized in ICT to work in key economic sectors like tourism and ,agriculture – and curriculum development is key area that will be looked at.

Which Kenyan bank has the best transaction accounts?

I’m looking for a new transactional bank account for the year. Generally need to low cost, quick, pleasant service, forex, standing orders, cheque book, ATM network, probably an introduction credit card etc?

My top choices are Equity, Stanchart or Barclays. Indicate appropriate tariffs and put your comments/reasons below.


Tujuane: Transforming from Employee to Employer

Tujuane is a network with almost 3,000 worldwide members, it is an offshoot of Nairobist that was founded in 2006, by a group of ex-Boston graduates who chanced on a means to network and interact beyond Facebook-type connections, but with actual get-togethers and network forums. It has almost 3,000 members including 45 in Kampala, and Dar es Salaam each who communicate and share through newsletter, listing of theirs businesses, a book club soma, surveys and meet-ups.

On November 21 in Nairobi, they held a mixer – or a networking event dubbed The Road from Employee to Employer with an address by Dr. Mulengani Katwalo, the director of theInstitute for Strategy & Competitiveness (ISC) at the Strathmore Business School.

Dr. Katwalo – Photo courtesy of EGM

His talk centered on what local entrepreneurs/business owners can change to enable them to succeed in business. Success is not about starting a business – as anyone can find business plan on the Internet – with the unfortunate result that that 60 – 70% of entrepreneurs fail in the first year. This is because they behave like athletes who try to go from starting to running, but who don’t warm up first:

Entrepreneurs can make changes in six areas to ease the transformation

1. Training/skills development: Many entrepreneurs may have the drive, and the money but lack some skills, necessary to understand customers, and make a transition to understand their business/industry to take it to the next level. They should engage in short courses, but more important they should contribute to the agenda of education. E.g. by working with universities to set the learning curriculum for business such as the local tourism sector.

2. Innovation : Entrepreneurs do not engage in research & development (R&D)(by show of hands no one in the room was engaged in R&D departments/capacities) – and there are no budgets for new ideas and creations. Entrepreneurs need to embrace the process of buying and selling knowledge. If you have a good idea and cannot use, can you sell it?. The developed world is about exchange of ideas, not just goods & services. We need to convert ideas into cold hard cash.
– Entrepreneurs should know there is nothing wrong with copying, benchmarking, or reverse engineering. E.g. the Nyayo Car may have succeeded if it had been built in collaboration with a Japanese company and with just a Kenyan name. That’s how Tata rose to become a world leader in the sector. Presently there’s still a local mindset that doing imitation is inferior.
– In business, be brave enough to learn, pick an idea and use it. The patent for kyondo (baskets) is owned in Japan, and when you see Japanese tourists taking photos, a lot of them act as blueprints for products
– Innovation is crucial, but its not about going to the lab only – its about getting new ideas and converting them into products and services e.g. in Kenyan hospitals, while equipment is new, there has been no innovation in service
– Entrepreneurs should not stop innovating: Once you make enough money – the tendency is for many to move to big (Karen) houses, buy big cars, get new wives etc. They don’t create legacies that sustain wealth, so that every generation has to start over again.

3. Culture: There is a bad (local) attitude and perception that needs to change specially in regards of treatment of customers. This bad Matatu treatment towards customers, as though entrepreneurs are doing them a favour is bad for business. Entrepreneurs do not owe customers a favour – they are providing a service, which customers are paying for. Until our customer service changes to reflect this change in attitude, we will always be second best. In other countries, even if someone doesn’t like you, they will serve you and take your money – and ensure you (as a customer) keep coming back.
– Customer acquisition skills are poor – entrepreneurs do not keep up with innovation in the industry, they don’t read much. There’s a lazy tendency to finish work, go to bar and then sleep. To be a world-class entrepreneur, you must make sacrifices, take make deliberate efforts such as take courses to develop management skills and read books otherwise they will always remain second best.

4 Neighborhoods If you don’t know your market, you will always be the village beauty Entrepreneurs need to know what opportunities exist beyond their neighborhoods or they will never take advantage of them. Do you look at your market as the Westlands area (a Nairobi suburb) or the 100 million + people in the greater East Africa – Congo, S. Sudan, Somalia? Only those that have eyes, can see the market, like the South Africans who have invested here in Kenya.
– It’s also a perception issue, when you see people – do you see market or problems – what is your attitude towards expansion? Exporting to Europe? etc.

5 Cooperation or competition – This is an increasing trend in the business world to cooperate rather than compete – because not all your competitors are your enemies. This can also work in knowledge exchange (there’s appears to be a marketing understanding in Nakumatt and Tuskys, though both supermarkets, are not competitors as they target different clientele

6. Cooperation – working in networks (like Tujuane, clusters, create linkages, exchanges etc. as individual businesses do not exist in isolation – so entrepreneurs should network with related companies. We had a stimulating group discussions in which participants listed reasons for joining a network as among others – get contacts in the industry, socializing [with like minded people] as they are very busy, Learn new ideas[raises competition], Synergy, Pooling of resources/barter of services & goods, learn new opportunities and for moral support [e.g. for freelancers who work from home]