#MondayBlues: Can Econet’s Virtual Call Centres Stand The Heat?


Last week Econet Wireless launched the Virtual Call Centre programme, an initiative that is supposed to provide employment opportunities for the many unemployed youths in Zimbabwe. With an expectation to sign up at least 25000 agents by the end of the year, this sounds like an answer to many of our economic problems that have affected our youths, but will it improve the quality of customer service?

While they claim that this is the first programme of its kind in the world, just typing the words virtual call centre into a search engine will unearth the truth, that Virtual Call Centers have been in operation for quite some time, but they are new to Zimbabwe, I guess that’s what they meant.

By Pearson Mbendera 

What’s upsetting is realising that the information they gave during the launch doesn’t match with the information in the brochure, making it hard to figure out which is the truth.

The programme does offer some endless possibilities, but it has to pass the quality assurance test first.

Registration fees are too much

To register, one needs to be between the age of 16 and 34 and also needs to accumulate 5000 points which are equal to $50 in recharge since $1 of recharge will earn you 100 points, but given the economic problems of the demographic this initiative is supposed to help, this is a lot of money in recharge.

Many people only recharge just for WhatsApp, which has turned out to be the cheapest way to communicate. And considering how revenues from Econet’s mobile services have gone down over the years, surely people aren’t recharging as they used to, thanks to the many communication means at their disposal. For some, it will take over a year to recharge $50.

Given all this, it will take long for someone to recharge $50 and ultimately qualify to be a Virtual Call Agent (VCA). And on top of that, they need a Core i7 laptop, Noise cancellation headphones, mouse, a spare battery, an Econet LTE modem and a sim card, without this, they will assist in getting a loan to finance the acquisition of the tools, but you’d need to pay a deposit of $250 and a monthly instalment of $125 for 11 months. That’s just too much.

An answer to the problem, this doesn’t seem like it.

Econet customer service not a good benchmark

Econet’s customer service is terrible. That’s sad, but the truth. Anyone who has ever called Econet’s customer service and spoken to at least two different agents can attest to the fact that they will give you different solutions to the same problem.

I had a terrible experience when they started deducting money from my Ecocash account for Ecosure which I hadn’t joined. Having called and spoken to at least 5 different people and being told 5 different stories about how money was deducted and how I could stop it, I demanded to speak to someone of authority but nothing came out of it.

Luckily, my money was later refunded, less the transaction costs that I had already incurred. Funny thing is, my brother was a victim of the same mix up, and got the same treatment that I got.

While the VCC programme seems to cater for quality control monitoring, given the quality of their customer service, surely one cannot expect the quality control to amount to anything, especially when those employed already aren’t delivering quality.  Does that mean that there currently aren’t any monitoring tools in place, or the quality of service is already being met?

Ecocash Agents not a good example

Ecocash agents have now gone rogue, charging exorbitant premiums just to pay out those who would have come to cash out. Given the cash crisis the country is having, this was bound to happen but it doesn’t offer a good example.

Sure what they are doing is illegal, but given the desperation in the people to get their hands on some cash, there is no way people will report them to the authorities. That’s just how things work here I suppose. People get to the point where they are used to a bad service and accept it.

Our country will always have problems, forcing some people to capitalise on some situations; won’t we see the same from VCAs?

Given all this, can the VCC programme be a success? That remains to be seen. This seems like a way for Econet to get rid of their customer service department and make money out of it. We shall see, and Monday Blues will be there to give you all the gory details about this scheme.

Tari Mudahondo

The Full Kwese Judgment

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