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Why Safaricom’s Long-Time Customers Are Disillusioned

Kenyans have kept their guns trained on the giant

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Confusion, anger, misinformation and miscommunication have been the hallmarks of the sim validation process currently ongoing in Kenya.

Although the directive came from the Communications Authority (CA) and its Director-General Ezra Chiloba, it is Kenya’s largest telco – Safaricom, that is taking the most flak. Kenyans have kept their guns trained on the giant.

Numerous customers are even threatening to sever their years-long relationships with Safaricom over the process, and have declared that they will not heed calls to go validate their lines at agents or dealers despite the threat of their sim cards losing functionality. Ironically, Airtel and Telkom, who have long  been accused of lacking on the innovation and reliability front compared to Safaricom, have been earning the biggest plaudits for enabling fully online registration.

Both Airtel and Telkom have portals that allow customers to key in their details and upload photos of their ID cards to complete the process. To validate their lines, Safaricom customers must visit a Safaricom shop or dealer.

A USSD code to check your registration status as recently as last week would list all  Safaricom phone numbers associated with your ID card. Only a few days later, the same USSD prompt informs most Safaricom customers that their sim registration details are ‘not complete.’ This has rubbed many of their customers the wrong way with subscribers reading mischief in the change.

“Please visit the nearest shop or agent to resubmit your details,” the message from Safaricom reads in part.

According to CA, the program is a SIM validation process, not a re-registration of SIM cards and it is not a requirement to do it in person “unless it is necessary”. It is primarily intended to curb crime and fraud propagated using mobile phones in Kenya. A section of Kenyans have backed this fully, noting that several lines are registered by fraudsters using different identities.

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However, it is already a requirement to register a new line with your ID card before it can be activated by telcos – fueling discontent and concerns from many on what they consider an unnecessary exercise. The misinformation surrounding the process has not helped matters.

CA had to explicitly deny claims that the process was part of a plan to influence the General elections slated for August. Legally, it is anchored in 2015 regulations that mandated Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to validate the details of their subscribers.

Beyond the contradicting memos and announcements that characterized the early days of the process forcing CA and Chiloba to offer clarification, the registration saga has opened a pandora’s box as Kenyans reveal more bones they have to pick with East Africa’s most profitable company.

Complaints of the company veering from its supposedly customer-centric roots are plastered all over social media – with many subscribers who once felt connected to Safaricom, its award-winning products and marketing campaigns now perceiving it as just another soulless, giant corporation.

Among issues they highlighted are system failures, delays, frustrating customer care channels, high mobile money transaction fees and a weakening social connection between the firm and its customers.

It probably isn’t the biggest headache for a company that made net profits of Ksh37.056 billion in the six months to September 2021, but shifting public sentiment will undoubtedly be a cause for concern at Waiyaki Way.

Sample the thoughts of these Kenyans on Safaricom;

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MARTIN SIELEhttps://loud.co.ke/
Martin K.N Siele is the Content Lead at Business Today. He is also a Quartz contributor and a 2021 Baraza Media Lab-Fringe Graph Data Storytelling Fellow. Passionate about digital media, sports and entertainment, Siele also founded Loud.co.ke
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