On 28 August 2009, Econet launched 3G services on its network. Then, we criticized Econet for not providing enough information to subscribers about the new service. A little over a month later, Econet quietly suspended the activation of more subscribers to 3G services.
No public announcement of the service suspension was made. You’d just visit an Econet service center and get told that the services were temporarily suspended. And that if you came back after a few weeks, you’d get all the 3G you wanted. In the press, all we read was that the service had received an overwhelming response. Looking back, Econet obviously meant the ‘overwhelming’ part literally.
Today, more than six months later, activation of subscribers to 3G services has still not resumed. This is despite numerous calls and visits by subscribers to Econet service centers and public announcement by Econet leadership that by March, 3G services would be “fully national, and vastly improved in terms of capacity and speed”
The most recent public speech by Econet CEO, Douglas Mboweni, was last week when Econet launched the new call center in Harare. He didn’t mention the resumption of 3G activation for subscribers. He didn’t even give any update on when 3G services would likely be available nationally.
In these modern times, when customers are more connected and have more channels to say out their mind, this can make for a messy PR situation. To be fair, Econet has tried to be proactive in this area. They have boldly faced their customers on Facebook for example; giving updates, offering service tips, asking their customers, and encouraging honest feedback.
Lately though, a post about this 3G blackout by a subscriber seems to have made the business development crew that updates the page think otherwise. They went silent. The silence seems to have attracted even more antagonism from infuriated subscribers on Facebook. About a week or so ago, a Facebook hate page targeted purely at Econet was created and it already has about 160 fans. The page’s purpose:
Are you sick of:
1. Econet rates?
2. Econet 3g Adverts when the 3G itself is not readily available?
3. Econet’s Lack of customer respect?
4.Their fan page which is devoid of information?
5. Econet Monopoly?
U CAN VENT ON THIS PAGE!!
Clearly, the owner of the hate page is way out of line to take matters this far. Econet rates for example are highly competitive by regional standards. And the Monopoly; first it’s not a monopoly and second, Econet doesn’t owe its position at the top to any unscrupulous or monopolistic behaviour. That said, you still can’t deny the truth in the 3G accusation.
To be clear: 3G services are certainly on their way. We think Econet will probably be ready in a month or two. Maybe three.
It’s the unnecessary hype that Econet built around the 3G launch. It’s the billboards that screamed “now you can do video calling on your phone!”. It’s the 3G activated sim cards available in abundance on the black market for US $150. It’s the Econet service center agents who, since September last year, have been saying 3G will be available in a few weeks. It’s the lack of honest updates. It is all these things here that Econet should have avoided, and should now learn from.