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Technology rejected like Covid vaccine

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Queues of customers meander through hallways before spilling into verandas of major Malawian banks each month-end.

The same scenario is ‘photocopied’ by service centres for utility companies like Escom and water boards.

Most of the customers get immersed with stuff on their mobile phones as they painstakingly wait for their turn to deposit/ withdraw money or for services.

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The very gadgets they fiddle with have mobile money USSD or apps platforms which are electronic banking halls in their own right.

Have you ever wondered why most of these customers shun mobile money platforms just as good as most Malawians eschew the Covid vaccine?

According to Horst Schutze, a German authority in outstanding customer service, a good product must satisfy three parameters: It must be without defects, there must be timeliness and delivered with outstanding service.

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Let’s say you desire to purchase electricity tokens via mobile money like Mpamba, Airtel Money, National Bank Mo626, Standard Bank 247 or FDH 525. Most of these systems will first debit your account and proceed to acquire the token for you from Escom billing system.

How do I know that? You usually get two notifications, the first one is a notice of debit for your account and the product that you desired; the token is delivered as a second message.

There are times when only the first notification is received and no more. At that instance you have to pray that the system will recover and refund your money. This can take as long as three days. For service providers that charge a fee, that would mean that you would be charged for a service that was not even delivered.

Applying Horst’s theory to this scenario, not even a product with defects is delivered, there is no timeliness and the service is simply foul-smelling. There is no restitution. You get shortchanged; remain in the dark or your tapes continue to run dry yet you made a payment.

Imagine, for a moment, if the same system, having failed to secure the token simply said ‘we are very sorry we cannot get to Escom system now, here is 5 KWh to use while you wait’.

Thankfully, other billing systems like one for Blantyre Water Board first gives you the token before debiting your mobile money account. The hitch, though, is that when the connection snaps, it can take the whole week before service is restored.

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