In recent months, the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has gone to a lot of trouble to put its services online, introducing an electronic billing and payment system. The e-billing initiative surely comes from the GWCL management’s determination to join the ranks of progressive service providers.
We have been told that the scheme is meant to address the problems associated with the old manual system. The GWCL also hopes that it will take care of leakages in its revenue collection.
At a recent ceremony to launch the new system, Water Company Managing Director Dr Clifford Braimah was reported by the Daily Graphic as saying that “the e-billing system would be implemented by the use of emails and phone text messages.”
Accordingly, Dr Braimah appealed to the public to cooperate with the staff of the company who would be going round to take customers’ personal data, including phone numbers and email addresses.
The e-billing is currently being carried out in four regions, namely Greater Accra, Central, Ashanti and Western. It will gradually be available throughout the country.
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However, I wonder if alongside its aim of introducing a high-tech service delivery the company has thought to hold refresher courses for its staff, especially its front office staff, in that all-important aspect of service provision: customer care.
My recent experience with its Dansoman District Office, makes me conclude that customer care is evidently seriously lagging behind the company’s determined advancement.
But, to be accurate, it wasn’t directly my experience, but rather that of two youngsters I sent to that Water Company office to pay my bill, as they usually do.
Anyway, to begin at the beginning: It started with a GWCL message on my phone last Friday, April 13, about my bill for March.
In recent times, the bill comes first in hard copy, hand-delivered, or concurrently by email. However, this time by Monday, morning, April 16, there was still no paper bill, but I decided to pay anyway, going by the text message.
I sent the two youngsters, aged 14 and 10, to go and pay. The bill was GHC90.36.00 so I gave them GHC 91, and added a note that stated:
“From Ms A. Yeboah-Afari
“Text msg. received on Friday, April 13th, “that my bill is GHȼ90.36 “(for March, 2018)”
The note was attached to the February bill and receipt to make it easier for the cashier to know my account details.
My wards returned home to report what had taken place: When they handed the cashier the note, she looked at it then retorted in Twi: “Oh, deєn brɔfo akeseє ni?!” Then she added: Dansomanfoɔ ha adwen dodo!” (Translation: “Oh, what big English is this? Dansoman people are too troublesome!”)
A male colleague nearby enquired what ‘big English’ she was talking about and came over to the cashier to have a look. He glanced at the note and handed it back to her without comment. (No doubt he was wondering where the “big English” was!)
The girls said the woman kept asking them how much they were paying, although the girl holding the money had already told her that they were paying GHȼ91. Eventually, she entered the payment and gave them the receipt.
I asked them if maybe the cashier had been joking with them when she made her comments. The girls’ response was an emphatic “no! That lady never smiles. We have never seen her smiling!”
How could a simple note provided to make the cashier’s work easier attract that kind of response?
Two youngsters come to pay a bill, in cash, and instead of a courteous ‘thank you’, all they get is an unwarranted negative comment and a grumpy attitude. Customer-care, GWCL style?
I’m still trying to understand what the cashier found so irritating about somebody coming to pay cash and providing information to assist her.
Also, she could easily have confirmed from the computer how much was owed by the customer, without the series of questions to the children.
More importantly, what have the residents of Dansoman Estate ever done to her, to be classified as “troublesome”?
Is she not in a job because of Dansoman customers? Even if in the past she has had a problem with a Dansoman customer, or some customers, was it right to take it out on two innocent girls carrying out an errand?
She owes Dansoman residents a big apology!
I’m also pondering how anybody can describe the note I sent (scanned copy shown on this page) as “big English.” What exactly is in the note that can be described as “big English”?
My suggestion to the GWCL management is that if this is “big English” to their cashier at their Dansoman District Office, then clearly she is in the wrong job. She has no business working in the front office of their office at Dansoman Estate, which is by all standards a middle class, or even an upper class, suburb.
Therefore, the cashier should be moved to a back office where no doubt she would be happier, as she will not have to see any “troublesome” Dansoman customers, or have to deal with any “big English”.
Another question to GWCL: What precisely did I do wrong to merit that embarrassment from your cashier, which she unleashed on my wards?
By contrast, when two days later the children went to the Vodafone Dansoman Retail Office to pay a bill, they had this to say when they returned:
“Vodafone people are full of smiles whenever we go to pay bills. There’s a lady there who usually attends to us, so she’s our friend. The other time, a man tried to go ahead of us in the queue, but the lady told the man that we were there before him so it was our turn.
“Today our friend wasn’t there, but another lady who attended to us was also very nice. She, too, was full of smiles. And when we finished paying and we were leaving, she said ‘have a good day!’”