There may come a day when overestimated bills become a thing of the past. However, till that day comes, debates such as these will continue to rage on. With more and more cases of overestimated bills arising on a daily, a recent subject of conversation is – What is the best possible process for handling consumer disputes. Typically the standard procedure is, upon complaint, a load analysis is carried out and if the bills are considered excessive, a remediation process is initiated. While this system still far from being completely effective and the service response time often leaves little to be desired, arguably the saddest part is most customers don’t even know this process exists.
A recent interview with a resident of Games village, Surulere, shed more light on the issue. After going through the rather excruciating process of contending his bills, he is now confronted with a decision of having to clear his outstanding bills before he can enjoy units on his new prepaid meter. Asides that being a key problem, the staff attitude to customers shows that there’s a whole lot more to be done in terms of customer relationship management with a staff of distribution companies in Nigeria.
For businesses and it’s customers to have an equally profitable relationship there must be communication. Not just the kind of communication that comes on your ELECTRICITY BILLS, but the kind that educates and inspires transparency for both parties. As it stands, the consumers don’t trust the DisCos not to overcharge them, while the DisCos don’t trust the consumers not to commit electricity theft.
For example, an average consumer cannot tell the proper way the contest his/her bills. Most are clueless that you can even call for a load analysis of your premises, talk less of a review of your overestimated bills. The responsibility of communicating such key information relies heavily on the ability of the DisCo to properly know, understand and empathise with its customers.
Whether it’s Eko DisCo, Ikeja Electric, PHED or AEDC, all DisCos should take it upon themselves the burden of informing the public that they are not out to exploit and that they do provide some level of transparency. Every consumer has his rights, and every DisCo should respect it but most importantly they also MUST communicate it. It is the right thing to do.
A banner dedicated to informing consumers of their electricity rights would be great, a billboard would be even better. DisCos must realize that beyond the service there is a human side to these things and once you start to connect with these consumers on a personal level, you can effect the kind of change required. A lot of emphases today is on bill payments which we know is the meat of the business, but the customers remain the bone and if they do not feel a sense of respect, a sense of belonging and a sense of place, the distribution companies will simply be wasting their time. Simply put, you cannot be profitable when 99% of your customers are unhappy.
A review of the current practices being adopted by Eko DisCo should also be reviewed, consumers should not be asked to clear the outstanding bills in a one-time payment, but should be allowed to pay in installments over a period of time. This simple tweak will do a world of good in improving the relationship between the consumers and the DisCos.
However, with all these advice on improving information on consumer remediation process, the DisCos should also note that these communications is only half of the circle, a circle that is complete once a customer’s claim on his bills duly addressed.
If processes like this are followed through, it will herald the new dawn of privatization in the power sector. Where the DisCos no longer feel like selfish corporate moguls looking to exploit but rather like considerate businesses seeking to serve. Less like NEPA more like a DisCo. Privatisation is only a first step, investments in communications and expansion of communications channels in a second step and then there’s a key step which holds the key to growth, investment in staff capacity for customer relationship management, the DisCos must shed the government parastatal toga and evolve to an era of privately owned, customer-centric institutions who know that the customer is king.
Eko Disco customers in Games Village Surulere were recently metered, the Eko Disco staff managing those customers have insisted that these customers must pay 100% of their outstanding estimated bills before their pre-paid accounts can be activated. This is not only unacceptable but also a shame as some of those customers have resorted to alternative energy sources to power their homes, generators carry the day in this estate thus escalating environmental pollution. The company makes a loss while the environment and its customers suffer, the business process must be adjusted while the staff in question should be called to order and trained on customer relationship management.