MTN’s customer service practices have evolved; Mrs Jemima Kotei Walsh

BY: Efia Akese
Mrs Jemima Kotei Walsh
Mrs Jemima Kotei Walsh

Twenty-Five years ago when MTN Ghana, then known as Spacefon launched its Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) mobile cellular services with initial coverage in Accra and Tema, they only had a hotline of just about four employees to attend to customer needs and enquiries.

Today, the mobile telecommunications company in Ghana attends to millions of customers across the country.

Customer Service Week is celebrated annually during the first week in October — October 4 – 8 but in recent years, the company dedicates the whole month to celebrating and expressing gratitude to its customers for their loyalty.

Earlier this week, our reporter, Efia Akese (EA), interacted with the Chief Customer Relations Officer of MTN Ghana, Mrs Jemima Kotei Walsh (JKW), to find out how the journey has been throughout the 25 years of operation, how the company’s customer services have evolved over the years and what customers should expect especially this year when the company marks its 25 anniversary in Ghana.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

EA: We know you are commemorating the 25th anniversary of MTN operations in Ghana, can you take us through the customer service journey over the years?

JKW: The journey over the past 25 years has been a truly exciting and rewarding one.

Mrs. Jemima Kotei Walsh presenting  a prize to a customer at a Y’ello Soiree in Takoradi in the Western Region

We have grown from just a handful of customers and customer service persons in the early days of the business to millions of customers and thousands of service personnel today.

EA: What have been the major changes in customer service in your 25 years journey?

JKW: Our customer service practices have evolved with technology and gone through significant transformations over the years.

From a hotline of just about four employees to a fully-fledged contact centre and customer service team with over 600 personnel offering both self-service and agent-assisted options.

Customers being attended to at the MTN Service Centre at Osu in Accra

Our branch network footprint has expanded from just a few centres in Accra to regional and current national coverage.

In recent years, we have also introduced digital and online channels such as our social media customer support, as well as apps to enable us to serve our customers remotely and to be present on their preferred channels.

We’ve also strengthened the relationship with customers by introducing relationship managers and key account managers for managing some categories of our customer base.

Customer Relationship Managers and some guests on the dance floor at a Y’ello Soiree

This is in addition to the thousands of canvassers who are out there on the field providing trade services to customers.

EA: What technologies have the company invested in to improve customer service delivery?

JKW: Over the past 25 years, there has been a great deal of investment in all aspects of the business, including customer services, to provide the best quality experience to our customers.

Technological advancements offered us the opportunity to update our customer relationship management tools to better serve our customers from queue management to intelligent routing to enhanced KYC (Know Your Customer) and customer management tools and now digital.

We also have Voice of the Customer (VOC) tools to solicit feedback from customers as a follow up of their engagements with us to help us continuously improve.

EA: Could you share any positive outcomes or success stories (experiences) with customers?

JKW: We have many of such stories to tell.

MTN Customer Relationship Managers presenting a cake to a customer on her birthday

Customers’ needs vary and it’s always a delightful experience when a customer issue is resolved, no matter how simple or complex it may be because it brings smiles to their faces.

Our customer experiences are too numerous to share here.

EA: How has the role of the customer service personnel changed with technology?

JKW: Technology has enhanced our service delivery practices such that today, a customer’s needs not come to our physical touchpoints to be supported on an issue.

Some guests at a Y’ello Soiree organised to celebrate customers

The more basic requests such as purchasing airtime or unblocking a PUK can be done by the customer without any support from service personnel.

Our service personnel are also able to remotely support customers, as well as handle multiple customer interactions via digital channels with the help of technology.

In all of this, our people have also developed and sharpened their skills to thrive in the digital world.

EA: What are some of the challenges you have faced and how are you dealing with them?

JKW: The customer experience landscape has greatly changed over the years and keeps evolving.

Throwback: Some customer service staff posing by the prize car of the first customer promotion organised by Spacefon

Increased customer traffic and the complexity of customers’ needs are some of the challenges.

EA: I believe you agree with me that we cannot talk about the achievements and challenges over the 25 years period without talking about COVID-19?

How has the pandemic impacted customer service delivery?

JKW: It certainly put a lot of strain on our people, processes and channels, especially the online channels and our service centres amidst the COVID-19 protocols, but we rose above the challenges and delivered acceptable service standards under the circumstances.

EA: Do customers understand why your customer service teams changed the way they interacted with them?

JKW: Yes, I believe this is in relation to COVID 19.

A customer receives a phone from MTN at a Y'ello Soiree

In view of the nature of the pandemic and the awareness created, they were very understanding of the situation.

EA: What were some of the high and low points during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Can you share a touching story?

JKW: The fear and anxiety stemming from the uncertainties of the pandemic and what the future holds were overwhelming in many ways.

However, with the structures put in place and the support of the organisation, we were able to weather the storm.

Gradually, people became calmer and a bit optimistic and although things are not fully restored to normalcy, we seem to be making good progress.

EA: Aside from the celebration of the 25th anniversary, October is Customer Services Month; tell us about this double celebration.

JKW: The global customer service week is celebrated during the first week of October every year.

At MTN, we dedicate the entire month of October to celebrating and expressing our gratitude to our customers for their loyalty.

So we are saying thank you to our customers for their loyalty and also for doing business with us for 25 years.

EA: How are you celebrating your customers for both the anniversary and customer service month?

JKW: We have several initiatives lined up to appreciate and celebrate our customers until the end of the year.

Vice President  of MTN West and Central Africa, Mr. Ebenezer Asante (in suit) and Mrs Jemima Kotei Walsh (arrowed) with MTN Customer Relationship Managers

We are running a mega promo where we have given out phones, airtime, data and now we are giving our 25 cars plus thousands of gifts.

I encourage all our customers to participate.

There’s something for everyone so please be on the lookout.

EA: One of the major complaints customers on your network face is fraudsters on the Mobile Money (MoMo).

What should customers do to prevent so they do not fall victim to such fraudsters?

JKW: First of all, do not entertain those calls; if MTN Ghana must call a customer to pick a prize or verify some information, it is only done through our official number; 0244300000 and not any other number.

Also under no circumstance should a customer share his or her pin with anyone.

A Customer Relationship Manager presents a Christmas hamper to a customer

There are instances when genuinely someone might have mistakenly sent you money so in such cases, you check your balance and if you are not expecting any money and realise your wallet has been credited, you send the money to the owner.

These are peculiar situations but most of the time, these fraudsters set out to steal.

We continue to educate our customers through different channels on how to keep their wallets safe.

EA: What are your plans for the future?

JKW: The future is very bright and full of endless possibilities.

We will continue creating more opportunities to delight our customers and make their lives brighter.