Vodacom Senior Management and Board of Directors- A Question…
What is the value of an explicitly stated culture of Ethics when the words do not translate into the reality of a customer’s experience?
The Stated Vodacom Ethic
“Vodacom is committed to the highest standards of business integrity, ethics and professionalism.
The Board recognises the need to conduct the business in accordance with the principles of the King Code of Corporate Practices and Conduct (‘King III’). These principles include discipline, independence, responsibility, fairness, social responsibility, transparency and the accountability of directors to all stakeholders.
A number of these principles are entrenched in the Group’s internal controls and policy procedures governing corporate conduct.”
To get order out of chaos a word is necessary, a word is required: it is in fact demanded. So what will be the word that I use to begin constructing order out of the chaos that has engulfed me with the 3-month Vodacom experience of not only exceptionally bad service, but an indisputably clear case of fraudulent access to customer data?
The word with which I must begin is Ethics. And since superior ethical standards are implied by Vodacom’s wording let me just add that the value and importance of an ethical culture within a corporation is the fundamental building block for establishing strong relationships with customers, there can be no space for lip service.
And like Aristotle who initiated a line of thought departing first from the personal sphere of experience, I too shall begin from the personal, since the experience of the absence of the stated corporate ethic has been my own. I speak for none other than myself.
It is not my impression that my experience is universal to all, many or even some of Vodacom customers. However it is my intention to begin a dialogue not only with the board of Directors and Senior Management level at Vodacom, but with other Vodacom customers who may or may not have something to add about similar experiences.
Communication with the Vodacom Staff at Customer Care – the Recurring Nightmare Experience
The issue of network non-connectivity is an ongoing issue, and more often than not the only solution provided by the technical team is to switch off my router, take out the battery and try again. Sometimes this not-very-technical trick works, but most often it doesn’t. My experience as a 10-year Vodacom customer has been that after awhile the network system ‘self-corrects’ and so the best is to just wait it out because the backwards and forwards trying to sort out the issue with the E-service team ends up swallowing my time and since I am self-employed it is not a productive way to spend my working days.
Having said this, allow me to move onto the network connectivity issue that led me to uncover a practice that flies in the face of Vodacom’s articulated Corporate Ethic.
It begins in April of this year – around the end of the second week – when I saw a really good deal on a SIM only data card (20Gigs for R299 pm – 24 month contract). I spoke to various Vodacom consultants to find out more about the deal and they were very informative and knowledgeable on the particular deal. Since I had been in the habit of regularly topping up on my existing data account a new data contract made sense and would work out far more cost-effective than the monthly top ups.
Every small business enterprise, self-employed entrepreneur will always seek out cost-effective solutions, and this was not only cost-effective it was also time-efficient since I would save having to keep going onto My Vodacom page (Vodacom website) to process the top up. I asked the consultant what the process was if I activated the account before the end of April. ‘Not a problem’ said the consultant; I would be charged a pro-rata rate. The consultant informed me that within 48 hours of activation of my account the corporation would debit my account and then at the end of the month refund the debit. Ergo, I was happy with the deal and proceeded to confirm the contract. The stated delivery was next day, but since this was a weekend I accepted it might be a bit longer.
My new SIM card arrived around the third week of May; I believe it was around the 17th. I had begun experiencing network connectivity issues around the same time. I had made contact with Vodacom customer care about the network connectivity issues and with the backwards and forwards of emails and being told that my issue of connectivity was being attended to and I would hear from the technicians shortly. I gave my GPS coordinates to 3 different Vodacom consultants. I telephoned and sent emails and received replies that my issue had been escalated and I would receive feedback.
Well these issues continued through out June right to the final week- the last weekend of June, which I believe was the weekend of the 24-26th. It was on the Saturday evening that my network connectivity issue appeared to have self-corrected and I was able to access the internet. Please note that from the end of May all through June to the last weekend, I had near-to-zero connectivity, and when I did connect to the internet it would be on for five minutes and then the ‘no network’ ‘no internet’ alert would come up and I would struggle for a couple of hours to get back on.
On the Monday or Tuesday morning following the weekend – it was either the 27th or the 28th June, a technician telephoned to inquire about the issue. I explained that the issue appeared to have self-corrected. Everything appeared to be in order, since I had had uninterrupted service from the Saturday evening all the way through to when the technician telephoned, I saw no point in further wasting my time or the technician’s time in scheduling an appointment.
Soon after I was ready to activate my new SIM data only card and browsed to My Vodacom page to see what information there might be or that I needed to know in order to activate the new SIM card.
This is the point that is profoundly disturbing and speaks to non-compliance of the articulated culture of ethical behaviour at Vodacom. I saw that my new SIM card was in fact activated and that 6Gigs had been used up, and that this usage had been added to the monthly R299 contract cost.
I contacted Vodacom about the issue via email. I telephoned also and as fate would have it the network connectivity issue began again. I got no response from my query about the fraudulent usage on my data account during the month of June and kept sending emails to find out what action had been taken about this very disturbing incident and since the network connectivity problem had returned I included this in my communications with the e-service team at customer care.
Eventually I managed to speak to a consultant who checked the account and told me that all was in order and if I activated the new SIM data card in July the monthly fee would be R299 as per contract. She said there was no data usage for June and that nobody had accessed my still not activated account fraudulently. She gave me the instructions on how to activate the card, which I did, despite the ongoing issue of connectivity. When the end of July came I checked the bills on My Vodacom page and paid the required amount. At the end of the first week of August I got an SMS telling me about an arrears account and leaving a number which would guide me through the easy payment method.
Again I contacted Vodacom and needless to say it has been an ongoing nightmare. Every customer representative I have spoken to puts me through to another department, and I go from data to accounts to subscriptions and I have to repeat the same story to every new person and then as I go round on the endless loop it eventually ends by my phone call being ended from Vodacom’s side.
Obviously I have continued to send emails and speak to the Vodacom staff at the 082 111 and 082 1946 numbers, to the point of sheer frustration. The issue has not been addressed, the Vodacom staff have continued to give me the run around while assuring me that my issues – they are connected because I only came to know of the fraudulent usage on my account as a direct consequence of the network being so bad during June- are being investigated. I have received email responses along the same lines as the one I am including in this manifestation which I am using to bring attention to an issue that might actually be true for more than only one client, the truth or untruth of this is ‘out there’ in the public domain of Vodacom subscribers.
I have included some of the references from the emails that I have sent, and the names of the E-Service team who have been putting me into an endless loop. Furthermore the accounts department has suspended my telephone line as well as my data access. This is hardly acceptable. I trust that at some point in the near to immediate future this issue is satisfactorily addressed and that my access is restored and that Vodacom do the right thing since there’s no point to paying lip service to an ethical culture when my personal experience shows this not to be the reality.
- Ref: A7-DMEH-MZ1Q7 and REF- A2-1TU3-YIOVY
- Ref: 00TB~B44X
- Ref: 00TX~X45P
- S3-G0Z1E-E3F2I Ref: 00PS~SE7G
- A7-DMEH-MZ1Q7 Ref: 001DNaBQXRVPUQR2
Herewith the email responses –
Dear Desiree Thank you for your email.
Please be advised that I have followed up on your query with regards to reference number EC-047R-2OQ1GM is still being investigated. Kindly be advised that your query has been handed over for further trial. Our records reflect that your query is still under investigation. The turnaround time 2016-09-30 09:33:00 from the date that your query was handed over. Once the investigation has been completed, a consultant from the Client Information Centre will contact you to provide feedback. I know that experiencing a Network problem can be frustrating and I profusely apologise in this regard Kind Regards,
Herewith the list of names – please note that in many of the emails I’ve received there is no name given –
- Dorcas Mangaliso
- Zintle Joni
- Wendy September
- Shireen Davids (twice about the same issue over the course of a month)
- Ntsika Xesi
- Alida Brown
- Muneeb Kolia
- Luvuyiso Plaatjie
- Yonela Matshikiza
- Yusuf Patterson
- Noluvuyo Mgwangqa
- Kabelo Mogorosi