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SME owner shares frustration in dealing with telco service provider

Updated: May 29

Article by Jacqueline Arnold @ TwentyTwo13 (7 March 2024)

During the course of my career in public relations (PR), I’ve worked on countless product and service launches and system upgrades, both in-house and for clients.

The first big in-house project was the Y2K implementation. The planning and preparations started about 12 months in advance and involved a large team from all departments of the organisation.

Next, in the early 2000s, was a massive client SAP implementation project by a multinational food manufacturer that was going to use their Malaysian operations as a pilot for global SAP implementation. The preparation took months and involved PR and corporate communications every step of the way.

Those who are unfamiliar with what PR entails, might wonder why PR involvement is required for such technical projects. “Isn’t it the responsibility of marketing or operations?” they may very well ask.

What PR brings to the table is the user / consumer point of view. Operations tends to be more internal focused – on the technical aspects of the task – for example, the “how to”, resource allocation, and rollout plan. Meanwhile, PR takes into consideration and plans for how the event might affect users or consumers and how to communicate with them throughout the entire process.

This week I’d like to share my experience about the installation of a new small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) data package by a telecommunications service provider.

It began with a call from a telemarketer informing me that our company was eligible for an upgrade at a discounted rate. I believe this was one of the government’s aid packages to the SME sector. In addition to more bandwidth, some new equipment would also be installed. It was a good deal, so I agreed.

After the formalities, the installer came over and did whatever he needed to do. When the installation was completed, we were unable to access our external hard drive, and our printer and photocopy machine were no long in sync with our PCs.

No one from the service provider’s side mentioned that this would happen. The installer wasn’t helpful at all. He said that we’d have to call the relevant parties to get the other equipment sorted.

Shouldn’t it have occurred to someone from the service provider’s side that this could happen? Shouldn’t we have been advised to have an IT person and photocopy technician on standby during the installation of the new router?

Anyway, our IT person came over the next day, and when the equipment cabinet is opened, the inside looked like Dennis The Menace had been at it. Totally unprofessional, no pride in their work, just carrying out the work order – these were my first thoughts when I laid eyes on it.

We of course complained. The installer wasn’t happy that we did that. He said that the mess was not his doing (he blamed the earlier fibre optic upgrade installation team) and said that our equipment cabinet was too small.

So, here’s what I’m thinking. This is my expectation of any professional installation team.

First and foremost, there ought to be a site inspection to gauge if the site meets their requirements. Then, if something needs to be done to get the site in order, the inspection team needs to advise the customer, so that it meets the requirements. Customer service should also advise the customer if any other parties needed to be present to ensure a smooth installation process.

I dare say that PR was not involved in planning the rollout of this new SME data package because PR would certainly have picked up on all these things. I know I would have.

This old Customer Service Rule comes to mind: Rule No.1 – The Customer is always right. Rule No. 2 – If the Customer is ever wrong, refer to rule No. 1.

Communication is key in the rollout of any programme, particularly if it’s technical. Working in silos can ruin brand reputation and image.

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