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     Volume 7 Issue 33 | August 15, 2008 |

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Reaching Out

Imran H. Khan

Farmer Anis (R) being showed around his mobile phone.

It was a clear and bright day unlike many others in June. There was something in the air that day; it's not every day that you get to wear a t-shirt to work. Though the road to my destination was totally clear, I got a preview of what was to come once outside my office as the whole place was abuzz with excited employees milling about in anticipation. We had formed groups of 20 to 25 strong -- each with team leaders and in smaller groups headed for different locations.

It almost felt like a reenactment of Star Wars, where we had the “force” with each of us. We were out on a crusade to rid the city of confusion and darkness. We all broke up into smaller groups for a more precision location-based strikes (I was letting my mind wander), I felt like I was at the helm of the Millennium Falcon guiding it to a faraway planet, whereas we were actually off to Parbata Tower, a supermarket in Mirpur. In the van I met the other members of the crew, all from different departments of the company. We all discussed about the details of our mission.

When we reached our designated area we noticed that the market had yet to open, which gave us some time to prepare for our mission: coming face to face with people. While a lot of us had excellent relationships with customers, most of us lacked the experience of seeing them in person.

In order to help break the ice, we decided to rehearse. While some of us took on the role of customer care agents, others took on the guise of “disgruntled customers”.

As the market slowly came to life, I investigated the setting and discovered a dark isolated corner complete with discarded cigarette butts and an old mop. My face lit up; if bad came to worse and I was harangued by an irate customer with a swarm of questions I didn't have the answers to, here lay the solution!

And just like that, the people were on us. Before I was even ready for the whole shebang I was swarmed by inquisitive people surrounding us, wondering what we were up to. Pretty soon there was a queue of people all eagerly waiting to ask me questions. As more and more people wanted to know about my company, I couldn't help but feel proud that what little knowledge I had was greatly appreciated by the crowd around me. As I started to talk to more and more people, I also offered them my cell phone to give them a chance to make one call to anyone, anywhere -- local or international. This was our ultimate mission: to show people how easy it was to “stay close”.

This proved vastly popular and soon smiling faces were calling different places -- mostly the Middle East. While most were happy with the chance to make a free call, there were a few others who seemed quite offended to be given my phone. “I have my own phone, thank you very much,” was a response from a young man, “I'm a businessman and there are people who only answer to my Grameenphone number.” I felt a little baffled at first but then realised that he was quite right. Our phone numbers 'have' become our identity and are also our calling card. I left him with a brochure and my best smile.

Though people were complimenting me about our superior nationwide network with EDGE connectivity, one complaint that seemed common was the situation with “missed calls”. One person complained that he got 50 missed calls in one day and that it was impossible to respond to all of them. Many of these missed calls were actually crank calls. His solution was to have some method of fining such people for their disturbance.

Face to face with the customers.

As I opened my ears to more and more anxious queries, I was soon walking with an entourage, most of who were out to make their second call to Dubai and Abu Dhabi (need I remind you that these places don't have economy ISD call rates).

As the day neared an end and we all were on our way back to our office, I got curious as to how other groups had fared, I asked them to share their experiences with me. One that especially resonated was a team's encounter with Anis, a farmer, in Bagmara of Rajshahi District. After having talked to several customers the team was on its way to the van when a man hesitantly approached them. He had been working in the field and his shabby clothes were splattered with mud. Despite his discomfiture he felt compelled to approach the Rajshahi team because he had bought a mobile phone and had questions he was eager to ask.

When they sat down beside him, he was embarrassed as he had mud all over his body and clothes. The team explained the services that he had at his disposal and how he could check his balance. Despite his inability to access more sophisticated functions, he was satisfied with the services he was currently getting. They left Anis with a smile on his face, not because they had answers to all his queries, but rather because someone cared enough to listen to him and see his side of the coin. The team also rewarded him with a Flexiload of Tk 100.

More than 2,000 employees of Grameenphone, led by the Management Team, participated in the company's biggest customer care programme to date, in June 2008. Even Grameenphone CEO Anders Jensen participated by interacting with customers in the Gulshan-1 area.

The purpose was to interact with the customers, get to know them, help them in solving their mobile phone related queries, and demonstrate Grameenphone's commitment as a helpful and caring company. I could not have felt better that day. There really are no boundaries, to how far you can reach.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008