Friday, 10 April 2020

UMEME “ate” my Yaka units


On 24th February 2020, my husband paid for my Yaka and I totally forgot to load it on our meter that night since I still had a few units left. I remembered to load the units 2 days later on the 26th February 2020, however I was not successful and simply received an error message as can be seen below. 

I tried to re-enter the digits of the token number from the SMS over and over but received the same error message. Now for clarity, I usually load the units for my Yaka meter immediately I do the mobile money payment aside from this one incident so I have never had an issue before.

Living in Uganda and working in the service industry, I understand that once in a while systems do break down but I also expect the people who man them to do their best to ensure that they get things running back to normal as soon as possible. 

So as a reasonable individual that’s exactly what I did and so I asked my husband to call the UMEME help line to follow up on the issue. After multiple calls and very contradictory information he was told that the units expired so there was nothing that could be done aside from repaying.

I decided to step in and went on Twitter for help which meant re sending the details of our entire complaint for a second and even third time because I realized that the UMEME account has different respondents over day and night time shifts which is understandable.  So via Twitter I spoke with 3 digital personnel for UMEME initialed (OE), (BA) and (NB) who did not resolve my issue.


Usually I let such things go but it is because of the manner in which the UMEME help line staff and online (digital media) team did not resolve the issue/ give feedback/ try to buy time in a bid to wear us down that baffled me an already very aggrieved customer. That aside see details in the screen shots below where I was told token remain valid for 3 months.





Now please note that today is 10th April, Yaka was paid for on 24th February those are 46 days gone already. Usually my blog provides comic relief but today I intend to get accountability for a service I am owed and for which I need some resolution. A paying customer should not lose 100,000 worth of their hard earned money for no good reason so I will ensure to follow up on this issue.

A part of me is consciously sorry knowing that from this point onward that as a result of my persistence in following up, someone will indeed get in trouble for my relentlessness. However, in these times when every shilling matters, it is important that we go back to the basics and service providers must remember to value every customers’ business even when they are a monopoly.



Saturday, 22 February 2020

BODA BODA Valentine


Valentines comes once a year but love should actually be expressed all year around. I don't care much for this day but quite a few do and I was unusually surprised that the boda boda guy at our stage at work had caught the Valentine's Day bug.

We have a flower and potted plant stall at one of our stores and throughout the day men majorly between 25 and 40 stopped to get a bunch, basket or a few stems of roses and whatever flower arrangement they felt best suited their honey or sugar plum.

From my point of view, aside from the waiting line of sharply dressed men at the flower stall, the day was rather uneventful. However, at the end of the day at about 6:45 pm, Charlie our resident boda boda rider at the stage near work made a bee line for the flower stand. As he engaged in merry making with the 2 flower arrangement ladies, it never occurred to me that he planned to order an arrangements at the close of the day.

I assumed that as Charlie waited for the last 2 gentlemen to get their bouquets, he had been summoned by one of his regular clients to deliver a bunch of flowers to their significant other. Now you must understand that Charlie who is often regarded as chairman is held in high regard and caters to majorly a corporate client base so this would not be an unusual request. He delivers meals, picks up medication, can do errands for you at a fee and is very professional and well put together.

So as the last gentleman turned to walk away I caught sight of a maroon velvet miniature back pack on Charlie’s back which seemed odd especially since there was no child seated on his motor bike so I decided to engage him in conversation as I waited for a guest.

Me: "Charlie, happy Valentine!"

Charlie: "Happy Valentine manager. How come you are not Valentining?"

Me: "No, I do not celebrate Valentine’s day."

Charlie: "Eh, but why no flowers or chocolate for you?"

Me: "No Charlie, I am too old for those games, but which child's back pack have you stolen? That is definitely not yours.

Charlie: "Valentine manager, stealing no.... I bought this ka bag for my daughter she is my Valentine."

Me: "Good job Charlie and what about her mother?"

Charlie: "What about her?"

Me: "What do you plan on getting her? Let me give you some free advice Charlie, you cannot get something for your daughter and nothing for your wife."

Charlie: "Eh, mbaddee ki lowoza ko kati" (Eh I was only starting to think about it now.)

Florist: "Bera mu klass, mugulire ko ku ka rose." (You had better be in class/ schooled, buy her at least a rose.)

Charlie: "Eh, mukyogedde nakyo kitufu." (What you have spoken about is the truth.)

Charlie: "Manager, kamugulire ko ka rose, sagala okusula wabweru." (Manager, let me buy her a rose, I do not want to be thrown out of the house to sleep outside tonight," he responded sharply as he picked up his 3 stemmed bouquet and rode off.

He left the 2 florists and a few bystanders laughing hysterically as another conversation ensued. Many of the by standers wondered whether most of the men who were buying flowers wanted to, or had been given no choice and it was therefore expected of them.

All I can account for is that Charlie was in very high spirits the next day having scored major points with his wife the previous day and he thanked me for the advice.

Kyoka ba na Ugandan! (But Ugandans)


Saturday, 1 February 2020

Customer experience in the banking Sector is non negotiable – My BOA experience.


 In October 2019, I was in a Bank of Africa banking hall and I quickly realized they had no network. This meant that they could not give customers their personal and company account balances, transact on Money Gram or Western Union, initiate ATM/ mobile wallet withdrawal or effect withdrawal and account transfer entries.

Now while I waited, for the first 15 minutes I had to block out as much background noise as possible as a very disgruntled customer who was ahead of me waited to withdraw money from her Ugx account as US dollars. I do not want to digress, so in summary I will simply say it did not go well, tempers flared, the manager hid then left the bank through another exit and eventually she was handled later on by agreeing to give her the same rate she would obtain from competition when network returned. She stepped out briefly for a couple of minutes and came back.

During the time the angry Forex customer left the banking hall, 3 people (myself inclusive) remained and we waited thinking that this would be a short while. Up to this point the waiting process was peaceful until a total of 45 minutes since I entered that 2 new female customers walked in and quickly grew very agitated.

After audible grumbling on the state of service in Uganda and how we (Ugandan customers) are always taken for granted and now even have to beg to withdraw our own money. A comical but realistic depiction of a customer’s pains in some banking halls ensued after the brief gushing and spurting of mismatched conjecture the two new entrants.

Female Customer 1: “So we cannot transact?”

BOA Relationship Officer: “No, the network is down at the moment,” she responded politely.

Female Customer 2: Eh…, okay so can we get some water at least?”

BOA Relationship Officer: “Sorry, we don’t have water today. It just run out,” she responded avoiding all eye contact with the disgruntled customer as she continued to staple and file away her documents.

To provide you with context, the network had been off all morning, we were a total of 5 – 8 people in the banking hall now and it was 12:15 pm and the water from the dispenser had run out. Actually, my entire duration of time in the banking hall there was no water in the dispenser.

Female Customer 2: “Hhhm, ehh so at least you put for us TV (DSTV) to entertain us as we wait!”

The BOA Relationship Officer got up from her seat, went to the back office section where the manager sits and we all thought she was going to come back with the remote and turn on the DSTV device only for her to return empty handed.

Female Customer 2: “Nyabo, so put for us TV.  I thought you had gone to get us the remote. Or give us the remote and we choose a channel for ourselves.”

BOA Relationship Officer: “No, the TV is not working!” She blurted out nervously as she giggled.
I am a regular at this BOA location so I was well aware that her giggle was a nervous one and not one of contempt but in light of the situation at hand this was not an expression she should have used because this further fueled the ladies rage.

After a brief pause the lady crouched and cradled her forehead in the palm of her hand and said,

Female Customer 1: “Eyiii, my goodness so we can't transact, you don't/ cannot afford to have water in the banking hall for your customers and the DSTV does not work!”

With the latter statement, we all burst into laughter like a cackle of hyenas and to make matters worse; even before we could recover she added,

Female Customer 1: “So why are you open? Aren't you about to close?”

We all lost it at that point and it took a good 3 – 5 minutes to get us back to the quiet seclusion of our thoughts. But even more urgent was the return lady who had been waiting for over an hour and a half and urgently needed to purchase dollars. As she stated her issue after patiently waiting, the teller simply giggled as she expressed her disappointment, anger and frustration at this whole process.

Eventually she was assisted by the manager over phone conversation but it took some serious persistence and elevation (under statement) of her tone for her to be attended to with the urgency her issue required. The lady at the till should not have giggled even though the situation at hand was extremely hilarious in light of the 2 female customers’ recent banter but my take away from this incident was to never underestimate the impact of customer service/ experience training for front office staff.

BOA, this situation could have been handled so much better and I am almost 80% sure that you must lost the dollar Forex exchange customer as a client. I am reminded of a phrase from one of the training's I attended late last year, ‘’leaders only emerge when it is time for them to lead.” (Paraphrased) The question is have you/ are you grooming these leaders?

Another thing to factor in is what are the protocols when there is an outage and how to handle clients during this kind of crisis. In a banking sector that is saturated where every customer matter, why leave things like that to chance? 

Oh and for those of you who are wondering, the network was restored at 4:15 pm that day no I did not wait until then to get service. I left my number and asked the Relationship manager to give me a call when it was back on line.


Friday, 17 January 2020

Flametree Stables – A riding Tale


Recently I took leave from work and as a treat to mark the end of it, a good family friend gifted my husband and I a horse riding session at Flametree stables along Gayaza road. I was both excited and apprehensive the night before our session, pretty much for no reason because I don't like anything unfamiliar and yet I take to things quickly and adapt.

So a friend called to reschedule an earlier appointment and wanted to meet up the same day at the same time as the horse riding and I declined due to the clash of my calendar. These cancellations are pretty standard but what made this interesting was the conversation that ensued as I explained to him why I had to cancel.

Friend: "Hey, so let me set things up and then we can have a brief catch up this Sunday morning."

Me: "This Sunday morning?"

Friend: "Yes."

Me: "No, that won't work for me, I have horse riding that morning."

Friend: “Wow, I want to be you in the next lifetime. Owaye, oba ofuse Omuzungu?" (My goodness, I think you have become a white person?) He asked as he burst out into laughter.

Me: "No, I have not and I don't see why going horse riding means I have become a muzungu?" (White person)

Friend: "The last time you were in Kyaninga, correct?"’

Me: "Yes."

Friend: "...and now you are going horse riding!"

Me: "Yes, so where is the problem?"

Friend: "Regular Ugandans don't do that."

Then it dawned on me, we (Africans) have boxed ourselves in and set stereotypes of the script our lives should follow. So when we have friends who break the mould we are often called odd/ weird and masqueraders.

Let's think about this critically.
1.        A 45 minute horse riding session costs 65,000. Dear Ugandan, this the minimum cost of an outing at Cafe Javas for 2 main meals with no drinks/ dessert. I know some people who partake alcohol and this is not even the cost of 1 night out with the boys.


 


Flametree stables are located along Gayaza road not somewhere deep in the village. With no traffic it is a 20 minute drive but given Gayaza road's congestion, it will take 45 minutes to 1 hour maximum. So the distance is not the issue as to why we are not experiencing these things. So after this breakdown, I asked my friend whether he still felt I was a muzungu or he simply misjudged the situation because he had limited information. He agreed that it was the latter and my point had been made. So dear Ugandans, let's stop slipping into stereotypes set up by ignorance and misinformation and make decisions for ourselves based on firsthand experience. We are in 2020 you cannot be making the same excuses and judgments without critical thinking like our education was a waste of money.

Everything is possible when you set a goal, plan early and align your priorities. You can imagine some individuals go out a minimum of 3 times a month with the boys/ girls and yet if you save just the cost of 1 outing, the entire crew could experience and explore more that life has to offer.

So please don't be like my friend and let's make creating authentic experiences a Ugandan thing. 



       Flametree stables is a horse riding school that teaches children and adults how to enjoy the sport of riding or improve and get better. So it is great for beginners and also experienced riders. The horses were well taken care of, the customer service is excellent and the trails within the trees of the 20 acre property are relaxing. I would not be doing justice to the establishment if I did not mention what they are about and where they are located. Just Google them and you will get directions they are pretty easy to find.

       Very important Note: Ensure to make a booking before you visit as they are by appointment only especially given  the nature of the sport and you must be matched with a horse that fits your weight class as well. So this is a highly professional establishment and it is not advised to eat before the ride and no food is sold on site. This is to ensure that you fully enjoy your ride with no nausea.












Friday, 10 January 2020

You cannot buy class




My husband and I were fortunate to have our wedding reception and the first leg of our honeymoon at Lake Victoria Serena in Kigo. I say fortunate because it is not something I take lightly, we are truly blessed and also worked our butts off to enjoy this and give our guests a wedding to remember. However, that is not the essence of this post but rather the rumblings of a very intriguing conversation we overheard a day after our wedding which was technically day 1 of our honeymoon.

We got married on a Friday and shared the same date with this couple but they opted for the outdoor Coliseum venue location while we had booked the garden adjacent to the pool side. So there was not much drama the day of the wedding and we did not think much of it as we posed for our photos in the gardens as our guests enjoyed a cocktail before our entrance. We met this couple in the garden as our bridal teams crossed paths with and a voluminous train, veil and wedding gown worn on a very fair skinned bride with a groom who wore a very flashy evening suit.

Now their attire does not qualify as the gist of this post but rather the snippets of dialogue we overheard from the kitchen and wait staff that catered to both our events that day. All this information came out over the course of few days we stayed at Kigo in our honeymoon suite.

The groom threw his bride an over top wedding reception I am guessing to match her over the top wedding dress and entourage. They partied long and hard until the Kigo event cut off time of midnight. Anyone who has had a wedding at Serena Kigo knows how strict management is about ending the weddings by midnight so as not to inconvenience their neighbors but also ensure proper and efficient turnover of one event to another the following day. Every commercial event manager understands what I mean by this but anyway let me not digress.

So we decided to take walks in the gardens that weekend and enjoy critiquing the set ups of the remaining weddings that took place that Saturday and Sunday (Yes, sometimes couples get married on Sunday). So in between the frantic set up and buzz of the waiting staff my husband had made friends with on day 1, they relayed told us this story.

Staff: “So the mugole was there taking photos in the garden nga he is drinking everything mixing mixing them all.”

He meant the groom was drinking all sorts of alcohol (gins, wines) basically a tone of hard stuff the entire afternoon so by reception time he was quite intoxicated and was wobbling around his venue from table to table fist pumping pals with a bottle of wine in his firm grip as he drank from the open bottle. (Yes he was drinking from the bottle not a glass)

To provide you with context, the wedding decor cost 60 million with screens at a separate cost of 40 million however I choose to protect the identity of the service providers for it was not their fault that the client’s means did not match the aesthetic required for the selected venue at Kigo. So at the drawing of the curtain, the bridge and groom continued the celebration to an after party on the grounds after which they intended to retire to their bridal suite. So their luggage was wheeled to their room ahead of them but the groom insisted on holding the key card so it was given to him.

After dropping their luggage the Kigo employee left and started in bee line headed to the reception which is quite a distance away only to get half up the gentle incline when he heard a loud din. The groom skidded and almost fell face down followed by him thudding against the door of his honeymoon suite. Commotion ensued for 15 minutes and there was such a loud noise that the Kigo employee returned to assist them out of genuine concern. He was worried that the groom had hurt himself only to realize that he was so intoxicated and had quickly become a nuisance.

Groom: “What the hell is wrong with you, can’t you do your job.”

Staff: “Excuse Sir, what is the issue.”

Groom: “Your bloody key does not work.”

Staff: “My apologies, let me check sir.”

At that point he nearly fought the employee as he hurled insults and profanity that I do not care to repeat here. At the end of the entire scene, we found out that the racket was because the groom failed to open his door with his access card which he kept shoving at the door in the wrong place because he had never used a key card before.

This meant that he has resorted to kicking/ hitting the door until the employee pleaded (yes pleaded) with him and eventually assisted him to access his room. As he left the door and turned around to leave the groom yelled at him again insulting him at how nothing seemed to be working in the suite.  We also later found out that he was yelling at the very patient employee because the room lights did not come on, he was not aware that he needed to put the access card into the power slot right by the door to access all the lighting for the entire suite as well as other amenities like the television.

The member of staff was initially enraged but very professional, left their door intoxicated with laughter because he did not understand how someone with such means could be so illiterate when it came to the finer side of life and yet he of minimal education was well acquainted with these facilities. All in all it gave him pride and appreciation for his knowledge and experience and he muted away this phrase as he walked away after telling us this story.

Staff: “Oba toyina klass toyina. Sente tezigula klass.”



Friday, 4 October 2019

An exquisite experience with Sisters Bridal


Sisters’ bridal is a well-known bridal store in Kampala that carries both bridal, entourage dresses and accessories and has a branch along Kampala road and Quality sopping village in Naalya. 

I had visited the branch on Kampala road in 2015 as I assisted my sister with her bridal gown selection for her big day and it was not a pretty experience.

We were met with rude bridal consultants, old and filthy gowns that reeked of sweat and it was such a terrible experience that I vowed never to go back for any reason. Fast forward to 3 years later in 2018 I was a bride who had gotten engaged mid-2017 and was in dire need of a unique gown that fit my style sensibilities.

So as per my promise, I searched high and low for a store whose gowns fit my specifications and cost considerations after all I was paying for my dress. Fortunately for me I had saved up over 6 months since my then fiance and I had given ourselves some breathing room between engagement and all the different functions leading up to our wedding such as family visit, traditional engagement ceremony and wedding. 

Most bridal stores had over the top dresses with long trains, fairy tale dresses or full skirts that I would have to drag all day and I was not that kind of bride. 

The 2 gowns I liked were not in country and needed 2 months lead time to order and be fitted and my wedding was about 7 weeks away so I decided to put aside my previous bad experience and give Sisters bridal a chance.


I went online and got a phone number and called to get assistance and I was given the option of booking appointment or just stopping by the store to try out a few gowns. However, the very polite lady advised that it would be better to book an appointment on their website and show up when they are ready for me so that I could fully maximize the appointment. I was bit skeptical because this is Uganda and I had not experienced this level of service and follow through but I decided it would not hurt so I made the online booking and I got a call back to confirm.



After my booking was confirmed I got a call from a Sisters bridal consultant and over the course of an afternoon I sent her my specs for the kind of gown I would like a day before my appointment.

As I had walked in I was greeted by the bridal consultant and this conversation ensued.

Consultant: “Hello, how may I help you?”

When I showed up to the Kampala road branch I did not know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. My consultant was waiting for me and I was given a digital catalogue which had gowns in stock that were close to my specs.

Me: “I am great, I am Joyce I have a booking for 3:30pm.”

Consultant: “Oh yes come with me, oh but are you expecting someone else? Should we wait?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Consultant: “Matron, bridal party/ brides maids?”

Me: “No!”

Consultant: “Okay, if you are sure.”

Me: “Yes, don’t worry I am very sure of what I like and don’t like so I will let you know right away. I will call the bridesmaid when I am done making up my mind so that she knows exactly what dress to pick up a few days before the wedding.”

Consultant: “Wow, you are a very interesting and unique bride right from your selections. Not many brides don’t want trains or long veils.”

By the end of the chit chat I had narrowed down to 8 gowns I liked and I was handed over to another changing room consultant and measurements were taken. Small talk continued for a while but I realized it was for the consultant to get a feel for my taste but in the long run 5 gowns were available, 1 had a long train so it was disqualified on spot and the last one was in stock as well but it was already booked for a wedding the following month so they declined to even show it to me. At first I was in shock but after I recovered, I was quite impressed because this meant that when I also decided on a gown it would not be available for view by any other potential brides within that quarter of the year. 

So I went into the changing room and tried on all 5 dresses but dress number 2 stole my heart and I tried it on one last time just to be sure and that sealed the deal after which I engaged them on its cost and payment timelines much to the amazement of the staff as I was private messaging my only bridesmaid to meet me at the shop.

Consultant: “Eh, you are very serious and make up your mind quickly not like some brides.”

Me: “Yes.”

Consultant: “I was a little worried when you showed up alone it never happens. If brides come alone they always wait for their friends to start but it does slow down the appointment and sometimes they push the bride to pick what they like better than what she prefers.”

Me: “Exactly, I have experienced that twice so I cut out the distractions this time. I appreciate your honesty.”

The entire appointment lasted about 2 hours and 45 minutes and within this time; the consultant had taken measurements, I selected options, tried on dresses, selected my wedding dress, checked to confirm it was not booked, selected a wedding veil, signed paperwork and sent payment to confirm booking of the dress by mobile money while I was still in the store. The consultant saw me 1 other time for a final fitting that lasted 1 hour which was a week and a half before the wedding so that the dress could be dry cleaned and stored away. Oh I almost forgot, I refused to wear a tiara but they packed in anyway with my veil in the hope that I might change my mind.

The entire process was a delight and I will never forget it but above all what made it even more precious was the sensitivity and sweet nature of the communication from the Sisters bridal team right from my first appointment to the pickup of the gown 2 to my wedding.

 

 Above is some evidence of the awesomeness of this team that even set a reminder to call me for fitting and to pick up my gown. 

All my close friends and even my husband knows that I am a lover of all things digital that make life more convenient and seamless so this experience is one I vowed to write about the day that I put on my wedding gown that special day because these ladies went over and above to ensure that my big day was indeed special and memorable and I do not take it for granted.

The image on the left is 2 days before my wedding after my brides maid picked up the wedding gown for the event. What more could a girl ask for?

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Nail Therapy with my psychologist.

As a lady who has a very grueling schedule I enjoy treating myself usually once a month to a manicure and pedicure at my usual saloon with my regular nail guy. However I had been away travelling for work and so I did not get a chance to pop in for almost 2 months so when I went in for my appointment he was happier than usual to see me. 

If any of you wonder how women can go to a saloon to spend between Ugx 20,000 – 50,000 for a nail appointment, I will also ask how men can go for a haircut which comes with a massage and facial or how they go out to the same bar every Friday to spend 250 – 300,000. So allow me to choose my poison and let us call it even so I can move onto the rest of my story.


I am a student of psychology (or so I think I am), so it baffles me how a nail guy gets a timid and very stern lady to unwind enough to have a conversation and enjoy the delivery of pain at her cuticles being pulled out over the course of an hour and a half.  

Then you will appreciate this art of persuasion and the ability that they have to put someone at ease enough to unwind. So I thought to myself, adequately trained why wouldn’t they be able to apply these skills to hostage negotiation or counselling of trauma individuals who would ordinarily find it difficult to recover due to over internalization of the traumatic incidents that they would often be uncomfortable to divulge.

Yes this is a very left field line of thinking but bear with me and chew on this as you follow my conversation.

Nail Guy:  “Madam, did you report him.”

Me: “Pardon, report who?” (I responded wearing a mixed expression of shock and bewilderment)

Nail Guy: “Daddy wa waka. (The man/ father of the home to mean my husband)

You must be wondering how he knew I was married but I was wearing my wedding band which I had to take off to get my manicure done.

Me: “No, hahaha. I burn my hand from steam from one of my cooking pots at home.”

Nail Guy: “Are you sure, because if he beat you then you need to report him or he will do it again”

I burst out into laughter shaking my head but only then did I realize that he was dead serious about his comment.

Me: “No, I was clumsy when I took the pot lid off and burnt myself. Do not worry.”

Nail Guy: “Oh madam, that’s good to hear.

Me: “My husband is a gentleman, I am in very safe hands.”

Nail Guy: “That’s good madam, then you are very lucky.”

Me: “Yes, I am blessed.”

Nail Guy: “It is very serious! With some people we see that things are not okay at home since they come with bruises all over them but they are hiding it with long sleeves and yet they come out of powerful cars.”

Me: “Really, you can’t be serious?”

Nail Guy: “No, I see it from time to time and advice some of them who are not too tough to go to report to police and take care of themselves.”

The rest of the conversation went as expected with me expressing concern and him narrating a very horrific tale from one of his clients. The take away for me from this conversation is that we should be attentive to our surroundings and people around us we meet or interact with. Your action and concern may be what saves someone’s life or makes sure that they get the help that they need.

I have a new found level of respect from my nail guy and even encouraged him to look into a side job as a counselor because he clearly has a calling in the profession as it comes naturally to him. Every individual is important and has a crucial role to play in society and my nail guy reminded me of that with his kindness and concern for others.  












UMEME “ate” my Yaka units

On 24 th February 2020, my husband paid for my Yaka and I totally forgot to load it on our meter that night since I still had a few units...