Peace Corps Videos

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Poor Customer Service from TCC

There are not a lot of businesses in Vava’u with big telecommunication needs. Most businesses have a phone line or two and perhaps an Internet connection. And while I don’t have any hard data to support it, I believe that the Tonga Development Bank where I work is probably one of the larger customers of TCC, the local phone company. We spend more than a thousand dollars a month with TCC for our data and voice services.

I recently put together a proposal to save the branch about $600 dollars a month on its telecommunication costs by eliminating the expensive data lines and instead start using a secured Internet connection for data transfers. The proposal was approved by the head office in Nuku’alofa and last week I went with one of the bank employees to sign up for Internet service.

When we arrived at the TCC office, we filled out the forms and handed them in. We came armed with a signed purchase order and a request to have the Internet installed that afternoon. But when we turned in the paperwork, we were told that because we were an existing customer, they would have to do a credit check on us. They also said they don’t do credit checks on new clients. This seemed completely backwards to me. We then asked what was involved in the credit check and were told it was to see if we were paying our bills. I asked if they couldn’t just pull up our account and see if the bills were current. Yes, they could do that, but their head office in Nuku’alofa is the one that does the credit checks. They refused to take our purchase order.

I then asked to speak to someone else and ended up talking with the head person with the Internet. He said it was no problem to take our purchase order and he would be happy to come install the service later that afternoon. I thought we were done at this point.

Then a lady comes walking out of an office and says sorry, but no, they will not accept our payment and order until approved by their head office. We left and went back to the bank.

At the bank, we told the branch manager what had happened and he immediately asked if we could go to Digicel, their competitor and get the service installed. I said, yes, they could do it, but I suggested that the Branch Manager first call the TCC Branch Manager to see if he could help. He did this and in less than five minutes we were on our way back to TCC to order our Internet Service and schedule the installation. We were told it would be done later than afternoon.

The next morning, after no one from TCC showed up, we went back to TCC. They told us that no one had shown up because we had not given them a check. Even though both TCC and TDB are government owned organizations, TCC wouldn’t accept a purchase order and no one had told us that the day before. I did ask if we could just get our Internet charges added to our current bill and was told that would be no problem.

Finally, a few hours later, TCC showed up to install the Internet. Since the Internet here is from a WiMax system, all that is involved is putting up a receiver outside our office and running the wire inside. Because our internal network at the bank is wide open, I told the TCC guy not to install the Internet into our network, but instead to plug it into my laptop, which does have some security. When he plugged the cable he had made into my laptop, there was no signal. I jiggled the connectors and I could see the cable had a short and suggested he make another cable. Nope, instead he went out to his car, got his laptop and plugged the cable into it, jiggled the wires and it worked. He then proceeded to tell me that the problem was with the connection on my laptop. I didn’t feel like arguing with him, so I let him set up the Internet. Once he left, I put the cable into my laptop, jiggled the connector and it started working.

However, just when you might think this story is over, that is one more “gotcha”. I ran a speed test on the connection to make sure we were getting the bandwidth for which we paid. Turns out, we are getting about 1/3 of what we were supposed to get.

Two months ago, I wrote about how Digicel launched in Tonga with a big fanfare and improved customer service. At that time, I said that TCC acted like it didn’t know what had hit them. You would think that by now, someone would have convinced TCC they needed to change its ways. Apparently that hasn’t happened. Perhaps a Peace Corps volunteer with a lot of sales and marketing experience should be assigned to their corporate office. Otherwise, I suspect that TCC will end up losing its customers, like it almost lost the business of the bank here in Vava’u.

The other possibility is that a company will buy out TCC and change it. Just this week, Westpac Bank acquired the assets of the Bank of Tonga from the government. They already owned a portion of the bank and now they own all of it. TCC would seem like the next likey government entity to get sold and already they are offering to sell a small portion of stock to interested buyers.

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