EcoCash Upgrades: Why we don’t need behemoths

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Econet Wireless has turned into a telecoms behemoth, and by extension Ecocash. This has resulted in nearly every Zimbabwean being part of the Econet family, highly entangled into their services. Econet couldn’t help but take notice of this, now they are taking everyone for a ride.

Tarrifs, Tarrifs, Tarrifs

Econet charges for everything are quite high these days. This spans across all the offerings from Econet, data, voice, and the Ecocash platform. A good example is the inquire balance charge, which sets you back a dollar. And to top it off, Econet does not notify you of the remaining balance each time you buy airtime. They used to back in the day, but you know profit does wonders to the human mind.

The tarrifs charged by econet are simply too high. Maybe it is justified, maybe it isn’t but the bottom line is that they are high. Let’s take as an example the charge for mobile data on Econet Wireless. $50 gets you 1500MB that lasts for a day. At the end of the month one will have spent $1500 on 45 gigs of data. Let’s not forget that your ordinary civil servant is already spending their bonus at this point, the salary simply won’t cut it.

Stability

The stability of EcoCash has failed the tests twice recently, and this is not good enough for a financial services company. Outside those two events, the system is still pretty messy and their shops are always filled with people seeking statements to recover their money that was taken from their wallets but never got to the merchants. Not sure if they cannot do some system audits at certain intervals to reverse any failed transactions but that would be great.

The day Ecocash went down

EcoCash once went down, and the economy basically ground to a near halt. The queues characteristic of TM Pick n Pay supermarkets were nowhere to be found, with abandoned trolleys littering the aisles. Econet blamed this on the power cuts and equipment malfunction, and we have to take their word for it. Although it’s not the generators that take up the load immidiately after power cuts, it’s the Uninterruptible Power Supply systems.

On this occasion, NetOne stepped up and sent adverts indicating that their platform was very online, and Zimbabweans could move to it if they felt mis treated. But, who listens?

The day Ecocash was upgraded

Econet Wireless staged a major system upgrade, and on a Sunday like any smart business person would do, right? All was not meant to go well as the upgrade was followed by troubles that lasted the whole week. All ecocash transactions were not available, and users were left with RTGS Dollars stuck in their wallets. Vendors and Merchants quickly removed support for Ecocash, as the confirmations for transactions were not reaching them and customers were just piling up.

Econet managed to fix their system over the course of the week, but they left Zimbabweans wondering how they got to that point in the first place. Like how did Ecocash get to command more than 90 percent of the market share? Where were the other 2 mobile network operators? NetOne was quick to point out that their system was very functional throught this whole time, but users simply don’t care. At least that’s what I think.

Handling customer complaints

Econet is notorious when it comes to ignoring customer complaints. Just go to their Twitter handle, and you will come back smiling but sad. Almost every Econet customer has at some point been robbed of their hard earned dollars with customer services simply saying “DM Us with your phone number”. This applies across the whole family of products, EcoCash, YoMix, Data bundles, you name it. Even just recharging via the ecocash platform is not a guaranteed success, as the guy who processes the airtime and his external interface seem to time out more than is acceptable.

Econet needs to find a way to handle customer complaints faster and more effectively. Let’s take my case, I have a failed transaction of $6.74, which was supposed to earn me 2000MBs of daily data. The money is still not refunded into my mobile account to this data, and even if it were, what would I use it for. The same amount of data now costs 10 times more. There is the time value of money, and Econet seems to have skipped that lesson. Or maybe they just want to enjoy it a little bit more.

The telecoms giant needs to work on it’s rep before it’s too late, otherwise they may be creating space for a new player to come and disrupt their business. Business is built on trust, and humans tend to overpay for reliability, and the customer is a king feeling. Once that is gone, recovering is quite a tough job.

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