POST-SALE SERVICES OF LANDLINE

ONLY SATISFIED WORKFORCE TO ENSURE SUBSCRIBERS RETENTION

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Mar 03 - 09, 2008

Post-sale services of fixed telephony lines instead of are standardized to the satisfaction of subscribers following messiah takeover of Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation (ptcl) by Emirates Telecommunication Corporation (Etisalat) are not making slight dint of improvement. In April 2006, Etisalat has assumed management control of ptcl with 26 percent shares out of total 88 percent occupied by the government of Pakistan in a deal worth about $2.6 billion. Rest 12 percent had already been floated in private shareholding. It was believed that new management would dole in foreign expertise and introduce rectifying management policy reforms from entry level up to top in course of sustaining monopolistic status quo of ptcl. However, antithesis has been formed by the non-responsive and ostrich-like top level management approach towards its human resource development that furthers marginalization of its subscribers. Over two year has elapsed but the grievances of its subscribers are still handled according to tactics notoriously practiced in the state-run organizations. Officials of ptcl, although, accepts customers deprived of genuine facilities they blame elements unpleased with the privatization for creating rumpus and breaking quality service supply chain.

VSS OR LAYOFFS

ptcl has the distinction of being the sole landline service provider in the country and been attracting foreign investments for years. When Etisalat was qualified for tendering highest bid for 26 percent shares of ptcl staff base was considered superfluous and in excess of workloads. Therefore, voluntary separation scheme was launched to deal with the excessive workforce; wherein workers were persuaded to take retirement before completion of their service period against a wholesome calculated fund. Many of them have opted for VSS nonetheless pressure and resistance by their peers. So far, out of 53,000 employees 33,000 have applied to participate in VSS programme. While payments to 28,000 employees have been defrayed 5,000 cases are still under process. To few, volunteer separation scheme sways sword of Damocles over the leftover heads of employees who, in fear of losing severance pays or due allowances, hurriedly opt to VSS programme.

Ali Qadir Jilani, EVP Corporate Communications, ptcl termed this a baseless accusation while talking to this scribe on telephone. "It is totally ridiculous. No layoff was happened in the last two years," he said. To a question, he said there is a conspiracy theory behind low quality service. The situation is exploited, he added.

"True that not a single layoff was done in the last two year," assented president of conciliatory bargaining agent (CBA) of ptcl, Ziauddin, who's been staunchly opposing VSS, and added, "VSS is a kind of layoff in the disguise of severance payment for the welfare of the workers." Employees, who opt for VSS, basically feel threatened of losing retirement funds and allowances in case of non participation in VSS programme and are categorized as redundant or surplus. The VSS calculation worksheet circulated to employees categorized them in conformity with their need for ptcl's operation on a continuum ranging from key talent up to surplus or redundant. Workers having entitled as redundant or surplus in calculation worksheet had no option than to accept the programme. But he is sure that "they can not be forced out any more." With a job title of teleprinter operator, he has also been categorized as a redundant staff member. Once in demand, the teleprinter job has now been faded away and excelled by fax machine and electronic communication.

TENSED WORKFORCE

Enhancement and updating of workers' skills are necessary to match and fulfil contemporary requirements. The contrast case is deemed fit in ptcl where workforce is not preferably updated in accordance with technological advancement. Rather, new talents are hired. While talking to this scribe, a leftover employee and an activist of workers' association, Mehboob dismayed over the monomaniac role of ptcl HR department, which he believes, concentrates on wiping out employees, found incompatible with the new governance system, instead of their training and development. "Had they been educated and their skills been enhanced high perks to external recruits would have never been needed," he pinpointed. A Revenue Officer of STR-III, ptcl told employees are participating in VSS programme to secure their future, which seems uncertain in the present tense working condition, he added.

Putting credence to reservations is onto one's discretion yet the fact remains that the tense working conditions of ptcl's workers translate into sufferings of landline subscribers on multitude of fronts. Although, cut-throat direct and indirect competitions made ptcl decide regarding price parity that brought down significant downward revision in fixed line tariff structure post-sale services have least been ensured. Right from start and up to afternoon, subscribers throng at ptcl's customer complaint centres at various locations to record their complaints. Nowadays, noticeable are the complainants befuddled with Pakistan Package that if not unsubscribed automatically adds Rs. 199 in monthly bill. They have to travel from one place to another to cancel or unsubscribe to imposed facility by fixed line service provider because of not knowing authority horizon of staff. For instance, line holder of an exchange needs to go somewhere else in disclosing his/her unwillingness for Pakistan Package. Apart from this, numbers of customers filing application of line disconnection are on rise. It may be because of substitute inexpensive telecommunication services like cellular and wireless connection, but fixed line should have taken sometime to subside its impression from its users' mindset. Post sale service record of ptcl of last two year has been abysmally pathetic. And, this is proven in a common sight around its customer complaint centres.

Two complainants at one CCC told this scribe that while they had applied for complete disconnection of telephone lines long ago neither was the disconnection made so far nor monthly bill stopped. When asked to a front desk officer, he excused, "online system [that executes disconnection] is not operative." He didn't tell how long? Ali Qadir said ptcl gets prominence in complainants for its easy accessibility to subscribers. "We have number of complaint centres across the nation." In contrast, how many times do cellular phone occupiers visit to mobile service provider's complaint centre for complaining, he enquired? "We face several times distortion in conversations and sudden line disconnection while using cellular service but do we complain?" he questioned.

When asked, how do they plan to meet shortfall of technical or non-technical staff in future? He replied Etisalat has well-designed training and development programmes and conducts workshops for staff therefore.

Rightsizing may be a good option to cut back expenditures. The impact of it should be manageable as only satisfied workforce would ensure retention of subscribers. Grass root level training and development programme invokes urgent focus of new management at the helm of affairs of ptcl.