Turning Customer-Centricity into Curse Storm City

Every now and then, one comes across something that reminds one of the hollowness of the statement “customer-centricity” that CSPs are so fond of. The Guardian reports this case which, on the face of it, it is a straightforward example of premium rate fraud. The customer was charged about GBP3,000 (USD4,000) for more than 200 calls.

The provider, Focus Group, was unaware of this premium rate fraud happening on the customer account until the customer contacted them. A bar on all international calls and premium rate numbers was placed on the PABX. Focus Group then informed the customer that in fact, a not-so-modest sum of GBP8,000 (USD10,500) had been racked up in the previous 11 days. Now it gets even more interesting.

The vendor of the customer’s equipment is Pennine. So, who is to blame? Was the equipment poorly designed and/or poorly protected or was monitoring of traffic from the equipment poorly managed?

Pennine says Focus should have noticed the large call rates, which were occurring at night and were out of character, while Focus says Pennine should have offered a more secure system.

Suffice it to say that one more time, CSPs should be reminded that it if customer-centricity ever meant anything, it will never be enough to say:

  1. This mess is because of the other provider who provides me with part of my infrastructure. [Translation: Look at me, I am so helpless.]
  2. My terms and conditions with the customer, in this case, clearly put the liability on the customer [Translation: It’s the customer’s fault that he got inconvenienced.]
  3. We shall process a goodwill credit. [Translation: How can I be blamed? I am so philanthropic, especially after I have messed up.]
  4. We shall let the customer settle this bill in a very generous payment plan. [Translation: We still want our money. Please prepare to be part of a prolonged shakedown operation.]

Finally, it seems not even the ombudsman can save a customer in some cases. The article said:

You had to wait eight weeks before you were allowed to refer the complaint to the ombudsman and, in that time, Focus relented a little. It issued you with a credit note for £9,180, leaving you to pay £3,059. Exhausted by weeks of wrangling, you accepted this without invoking the ombudsman.

That’s right. Tire the customer until he/she caves in.

Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu is a director at Integrated Risk Services Ltd and specializes in revenue assurance. He previously worked as Head of Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management at Vodacom's operation in Tanzania, having previously served in the same role at Vodacom Mozambique.

Before his work with Vodacom, Joseph was an internal audit manager for Airtel, with responsibility that covered their 17 countries in Africa. Whilst at Airtel, Joseph led reviews of the Revenue Assurance, Customer Service and Sales & Marketing functions.

Prior to his stint at Airtel, Joseph was an RA manager at Safaricom in Kenya. He holds an MSc Degree in Information Systems.