Feb 1, 2010

Improving the customer experience of tech companies the Philippines

My wife and I are going through one of the most harrowing experiences in Manila -- getting a DSL internet connection. As I write this, my wife just finished queueing up for more than one hour at the PLDT office in Megamall.

She was 10th in line when she started. There were only two people serving the long line and since each customer took an average of 20 minutes to process, I estimated she would be served only after 3.33 hours. Had it not been for some customers abandoning the queue, she would have waited this long.

The irony of this is that we chose a more expensive DSL plan (Plan 1299). Had we chosen the lowest plan (Plan 990), we wouldn't have had to wait in line. PLDT required us to pay before they installed our line. In contrast, if we chose Plan 990, PLDT would have installed the line without requiring us to pay first. It does not make sense.

For a difference of P 300.00, we were required to wait in line. Did meeting face-to-face with the customer representative add value to the experience? Nope. They didn't ask my wife any questions (everything was already captured in the application form); nor did they give any new information, not even what to expect next.

It would have been easier if PLDT required no initial payments at all and just billed us after the first month -- the same way as Plan 990. Clearly, the people who designed the process did not talk to each other. In effect they are punishing customers needlessly.

I was texting with Malou, the service agent who was handling our application. I told her, could we just change our plan to 990? Her reply was not helpful. She said that they would have to "deactivate" my plan 1299 (I thought it wasn't activated yet?) and apply for plan 990 separately, which would take up more time.

Her message was framed in such a way as to put the fault on me for being fickle in choosing a plan. I couldn't help but compare how someone from Australia would have handled this. An Australian tech service provider would have said, "Not a problem." And went on fixing it right there. And this would have taken much faster to process, compared to the two weeks waiting time giver or take 3-5 days promised by PLDT.

I would like to ask the owners, managers and employees of PLDT if they themselves are willing to put up with this kind of service quality. Many of us Pinoys think we can compete in the global tech services market. But unless our tech service providers put the customers back at the center of their processes, we will never quite make it there.