Customer Care at its Worst: “When Safaricom Meets Nokia Care”

Today, I climb atop this soapbox to tell you about Safaricom Customer Care and Nokia Care and why I’ll never deal with either company again.

Late last year I was upgrading my phone. So I let our followers on Twitter choose what phone I was going to get. Why? Because you guys give awesome advice. To answer your next question, yes, that moisture on your rump is me ass-kissing.

Anyhow, I ended up with a Nokia N8 from Safaricom (in spite of our history with them). I paid the full price – which was then the equivalent of a few goats and a cow – and waltzed out with a shiny phone and an iron clad warranty to match.

For months I used the phone and had no complaints. The 12 megapixel camera takes amazing pictures and the HD video is quite a riot. The 16GB internal memory was always more than enough and I never had any majore issue of the phone misbehaving that was not resolved by rebooting or updating.

So it was that one morning I turned the phone on, entered my lock code and received a ‘Code error’. I tried it again to no avail. Without hesitation, I quickly Googled this bug and found multiple accounts of similar qualms; some on Nokia Support Boards, others not. Heck, there’s even a Facebook Group & topic about it somewhere.

After some reading, I was reassured that this was a small system glitch that’s easily fixed by Nokia Customer Care. I called a local number and they told me know that all I had to do was drop my phone off where I bought it, they’d take it to Nokia Care and I’d get it back flashed and fresh.


I pulled out my little warranty and went to the Safaricom outlet where I bought the phone with my assistant, Michelle. We stood at the repair line for quite some time(30 or so minutes) before a little lady came and asked me whether I was there for repairs. I looked at the little sign that said ‘Repairs only’ and nodded. She asked ‘So what do you want?’

I explained the error.

“So you forgot your code?”
“No, I don’t change my code on anything. Although it’s ill-advised, I keep the same code on all my cards, phones, etc.”
“So someone changed your code?” As she stared at Michelle.
“Again, no. I had the phone. Turned it off. Turned it on. And the code didn’t work. It’s a relatively frequent error with the phone. I just want it flashed quickly.”
“So you changed the code yourself?” She retorted.
“Again, no. I had the phone. Turned it off. Turned it on. And the code didn’t work.” At this point I was getting tired of repeating myself.
“Oh. Ok. So take the phone to Nokia Care. Take your warranty, they’ll do it for you.”
“But I bought it here.”
“Yeah, tell them that. It’ll take about an hour.”
And she walked off after explaining where exactly I needed to go. I gave Michelle a puzzled look and we began to walk. It was now 10:15am and we had a meeting at 11.

We walk into Nokia Care to find empty counters all across with 3 ladies having what seemed to be an enthralling conversation in one corner. One gave us a glace and measured us up and down before turning away and resuming her conversation.

OK then.

We waited until she finished telling her part of the story and we were finally summoned. I sat down, calmly greeted her and asked how she was.

“So what do you want?” She asked. Clearly not one for pleasantries.
I explained the situation.
“So you forgot your code?”

Oh God. Not this again.

After 15 minutes of back and forth aimless banter, she finally says “We can fix this but we’ll charge you and you have to leave it here for 3-5 days.”

“But I have a 12 month warranty on all repairs and service and it’s only been 5 months. Also I was told this could be done in an hour.”
“Your warranty doesn’t cover this. And it takes 5 days.”
“I checked with Nokia and Safaricom before coming here and they said my warranty covers it.”
“I’m with Nokia. I’m telling you it doesn’t.”
“OK. I’ve read the warranty and it says nothing about this. Can you….”
She cuts me off and says: “Well, maybe you don’t know how to read warranties.”

Wait, what?

Did this broad just call me illiterate? At this point, Michelle was already seated far away seething with anger. I couldn’t think of a relevant comeback. ‘I KNOW how to read’ is not nearly gangsta enough. Also, I hate being blatantly told I’m somehow stupid. I recomposed myself and told the lady:

“Look, I’ve followed protocol to the tee. What do I have to get in order to show you that Nokia & Safaricom themselves told me to bring my phone here? Do I need a letter or something?”

“Yeah, get it and come back and I’ll fix it.” She chortled and then she turned away and resumed her initial conversation.

I said thank you to the back of her head and walked away.

I was already done at that point. The End. I was going to give the phone away and go buy a Sony Ericsson from Airtel or an iPhone from Orange.

But Michelle suggested we revisit Safaricom and follow it up. I decided to do all the talking seeing as Michelle was breathing fire. After yet another half hour of waiting (if you’re keeping track, I have 5 minutes to make it to my next meeting) a certain short fellow shows up. His name has been changed because we’re not in the practice of snitching on DR.

So Shortman says “I’ve been looking for you. I was told there were some angry and impatient people out here. How can I help you?”

Oh wow. I was about to get insulted but I noticed Michelle lost it and I had to cut her short before she cut him into little pieces. Well….littler.

“Shortman, I have 2 issues and you’re going to tell me whether or not you can resolve them or not. If you can’t, don’t waste any more of our time. If you can, do it with urgency.”
“OK” he says.
“Issue number 1: I have a warranty. I have a repair. I need my warranty to cover my repair.” I gave him the particulars.
“Sorry for the confusion. We’ll take the phone there ourself and resolve that immediately.”
“Dandy. Issue number 2: I don’t have 5 days to wait for something I’ve been told takes less than an hour…”
He cut me off to explain that indeed there was such a huge backlog that the process normally takes a few days and then gave me his word that he would have the phone back to me before the end of the day, while still apologizing profusely. He promised. I assume promises mean something among the little people.

Did I mention he was eye-banging Michelle? Yeah, he kept looking over at her complete with the LL Cool J lip-licking and up and down look. So unprofessional.

She couldn’t calm down after that. Fury was her name.

Anyway, we sign some forms and exchange numbers and rush to our meetings.

At about 3pm, Michelle reminds me that Shortman still hasn’t called. She also encourages me to talk to someone at the management of Nokia Care the following day. We agree that if Shortman does not call before day’s end, we’ll make Nokia our first stop in the morning; Safaricom would be second.

He didn’t call.

9am the next morning we were calmly walking toward Nokia Care. Today there were about 2 or 3 other clients there; all being attended to. Still, about 2 counters were empty and the lady from the day before was floating from counter to counter. Again, we took a ticket and remained polite. We waited. For a while. The number was called.

We walked up to the counter to be met by a lady who said she was the manager. After I explained the previous day, she was shocked and apologized profusely and insisted that I go to Safaricom, retrieve my phone and that she would flash it for me ON THE SPOT and give it back. I was not moved. This was one broken promise too late.

Still, I was back at Safaricom where I was told Shortman had not come into work(It’s now 10:30am). We got referred to 2 or 3 other people before some disgruntled lady walked up to me and said

“We can’t fix your phone. It’s physically damaged.”
“What do you mean physically damaged?” I was genuinely concerned.
“It’s physically damaged so we can’t fix it.”
Michelle snapped: “That doesn’t explain anything. What. Do you. Mean. By. “The phone is physically damaged.”?

She just brashly said “Wait for 20 minutes and I’ll take you to Nokia Care.”

OK, now at this point I was flat out pissed. It’s now been 24 hours. A whole damn day. If my warranty didn’t cover it, I could’ve been told 10 minutes into this whole saga and saved a lot of time and stres and – wait for it – money. If the physical damage was the issue, AGAIN, 5-10 minutes that would be done. Heck, the only person who told me anything and stuck to her guns was the broad who called me illiterate – which, again, WTF?

We were now walking behind the frustrated Safaricom rep towards Nokia Care and I had my receipt and a full copy of my Nokia and Safaricom Warranties in my back pocket. We walked into to find the Nokia Care defensive line; the manager, the chick that told me I can’t read warranties and the lady who I assume was training her. They began by talking about another phone for what felt like forever. We’re now nearing midday.

Then it came time to talk about my phone. I interrupted and asked “Before we start, does anyone have a copy of the warranty?”

A lawyer once taught me this trick. Always make sure you know what you sign up for. If you didn’t sign up for it, you are not subject to it.

Fun fact: Nokia Care does not keep copies of Nokia Care Warranties. You just have to take their word for it.

Funner fact: Safaricom keeps copies of Nokia Care Warranties. They are kinda small and hard to find, but you can find them in the displays somewhere.

Fun facts aside, it was time for war. They quickly said they didn’t have a warranty for me to look at as though that was cool. The manager – who had just told me that she’d fix my phone, with all the facts involved – turns around and says she can’t because of physical damage to the phone. I ask: “What damage is this that caused the error on the phone?”

She quickly clarified that the damage did not cause the error. It’s – in her own words – ‘just a small crack on the headphone jack’. My eyes rolled so hard I got whiplash. I then said that the Warranty only disqualifies coverage when the physical damage actually covers the error (shamelessly reading from it at this point). She then switched her story back to the fact that my warranty does not cover me when I forget my code. I clarify AGAIN that I did not forget my code and ask where that clause is in the warranty. Because when I see “12 months of free repair and service” and another 5 clauses, and no qualifying statement anywhere about anything else, I’m sure I did not agree to anything else.

After a lengthy back and forth I told them to give me my phone back and to do me 4 favors:

1. Look up the Nokia N8 Lock Code Error online and see how common it is (because they said it wasn’t; “You must’ve forgotten your code”).
2. To either write better warranties or to honor the warranties they give. One or the other. Their warranties are as useless as Shortman’s promises.
3. To stop insulting people. Next to ‘The customer is always right’, add ‘Try not to call your customer illiterate.’ In this case, he’s a relatively well-read loudmouth who’ll let the world know when they step out of line.
4. To stop wasting our time. To be honest, the amount of time wasted chasing, waiting, hopes up hopes down, yes and no, back and forthing was the nail in the coffin. Why even bother to begin with?

I called a customer care line for Nokia in Europe and it took them all of 3 minutes to explain the situation to me. “Unfortunately this is a non-warranty service. [insert explanation].We regret that you will have to pay a fee for it. We apologize for any confusion on this matter.”

You see. Polite. To the point. And English wasn’t even his native language.

Meanwhile, I’m being paraded around Nairobi having myself and assistant insulted and exhausted; sent walking around chasing clouds when we could’ve wrapped this up in less time than it takes to light a cigar. And then they give me my phone and walk off like I just dissed them when I’m the one supposed to be paying them?

Never again. To both Nokia and Safaricom in Kenya. Thanks but no thanks, I do not suffer from battered wife syndrome. I am not the Terminator. I will not be back. Keep your abuse to yourselves.

The N8 is a great phone, if you want it, I’ll sell it to you for half what I got it for. Seriously. I’ll pay someone to go to Nokia Care and get it fully serviced and functional, with the little crack on the earphone jack and sell it to you for 25 grand. But I will NOT deal with either of those companies again. EVER. I am not a camel, straws do not break my back. Just a little bad service a little too often.

The End.

PS: One thing I’d like to get out of the way immediately is that we at Diasporadical do not believe in pointlessly attacking random companies without reason. We talk about Customer Care practices because it directly affects our lives individually and influences the growth of the country in a substantial manner.

As a close friend once said “If we refused to pay for goods if the service was bad, the only people that would suffer are Customer Care. The company will find some other way to sell you their goods/services, and/or the buyer will keep his/her funds. The problem with this country though is that we continually pay for bad service; and in turn keep bad service providers in business. We’ve developed a culture of settling for less that transcends through all domains of life.” I could not agree more.

UPDATE: Nokia Care fixed the phone the day the blog went up; many thanks to Dorothy Ooko. They also put up their warranty at their stores and to the best of my knowledge have addressed a lot of the concerns raised here. They also threw in a little gift as an apology of sorts for the occurrences of that day. Again, Dorothy, you rock. I’ve also liaised with a lot of senior folk at Safaricom and they have promised to change up policies and tidy up their practices. Waiting to see what happens on that front. Also, sold the N8. Many good tidings to the new owner.

51 thoughts on “Customer Care at its Worst: “When Safaricom Meets Nokia Care”

  1. I have a Nokia N8 (I have been called the worst owner of this device) unlike you DR, I’m not into all the features of the phone. I expect it to work when I need to call, text and email.

    Two weeks back, the OS had a serious glitch, it ‘hang’ for over 2 hours (while still playing ONE SONG) the whole time. I couldn’t switch off the phone either. It refused to go off. A little after 8 PM, it re-booted on its own. I decided to visit Nokia that weekend.

    I went to the Nokia CC centre at the Hilton. Talked a visibly bored to death pregnant lady, lady had the balls to tell me ‘Leave your phone here for 3 days, we don’t know what you’ve done to it’ she simply told me to my face, you’ve wrecked your phone. Now suffer biatch! I asked her why a simple ‘Software’ issue should take 3 days to fix? I asked her what her fancy computer was for if not fix glitches. She still insisted I give them my phone for 3 days … do I get a replacement handset to work with during the 3 days? NO … ‘Uta jipanga’

  2. Pole sana, i feel your frustration. For some reason, i always got a very frustrating experience when dealing with Safaricom customer care. I once almost fainted after lining up at their Kimathi strt branch for almost 1hr to replace my sim card after i had lost my phone. On informing one of the ladies about my condition and situation, she advised me to go and come back when i felt better, in not so kind terms. I walk out and into the nearest Zain shop and have never looked back ever since.

  3. I visited the Hilton shop a while back on a saturday to get a simple hitch on my Nokia E71 fixed. I go in at around 9.00AM and find the ladies sitted on their desks and 2 clients, one waiting for the other.

    I pick my number and wait for like 10 minutes.Notice only one of the ladies has a client,the others are just sitted staring on their computers. So i approach one of them and enquire how long they think it will take for my number to be called, the lady barks back at me that i should be patient and wait to be called. And with that she goes back to staring at her screen, and i walk out and throws the ticket in the kanjo dustbin outside. Their so called customer care belongs straight to the dustbin.

  4. This is the pathetic service that Sunny Bindra of @sunnysunwords is always talking about.! It’s very silly for these companies to treat customers as such..especially after spending cash on such as pricey phone! I feel you.

  5. I’ve more than once been trapped by both…. I no longer bother with phone warranties, if the device is to collapse, let it… Got tired pulling teeth and such, the worst case was when one of them sat on the device for over four months (of back and fourth) only to tell me on the fourth month (when the warranty expired) that they will not fix it… That was the straw that broke the camel’s back…

    Customer care agents are a particularly dreadful lot, heavily doused in arrogance with a certain flavour of daft and silly that can only make one consider a slow painful death an illicit pleasure.

  6. Reading this brings back lots of memory on the service provided by the two companies. I also own a Nokia phone bought at safaricom and at no time can i take this phone to be repaired or debugged at the centre. Have previously worked for them and i can say the procedures set in place do not have the customer in mind. The warranty is not worth the paper its written on as your phone can be in the care centre for months with not feedback just like what shortman did. The worst is when you get a bonga points phone which all have issues. Once you get it two days later it doesn’t work and after you take it for repairs, think of it as giving it to charity.You will never see it again.All in all if you don’t have a friend in any of this two companies to look out for your interest consider getting other means of information.

  7. I think Nokia needs to fix its customer care asap by first getting technically savvy and disciplined reps. The reps at Hilton are Hilton are the most arrogant and dumb bimbos av ever seen. I thought govt offices had bad service until i visited Nokia. It took them a whole 3 months to fix a bricked phone! What the heck was I supposed to be using!!!! Good thing I got a Sony Ericsson and my life is a breeze now.
    The last time I was there I sat for a good 10 mins for someone to serve me only to be told they had gone for lunch. That was the last nail to the coffin.

  8. They are pushing so many of their customers away I wonder where all that profit they are talking about comes from. Anyway, I’ve washed my hands on poor customer service in this country. I have talked, I have ranted, I have hamad…wapi? What happened to, “The customer is always right?” Just assist instead of blaming him/her (the customer)

  9. I am appalled at what you have had to go through and the total lack of decency from the Nokia Care centre. I have cringed at every encounter you have had from Safaricom to Nokia. On behalf of Nokia l would like to offer my apologies and to assure you that we will get to the bottom of this. In the meantime please send me your IMEI number (type *#06#) so we can follow up and sort out the phone before you sell it.
    I would like to sort you out by the end of today.
    My sincere apologies for what you have had to endured at the Nokia Care.

  10. I so totally feel you and am sorry for your escapade. It pains me that these companies and moreso the CC reps are getting paid thanks to us. I agree with the name and shame initiative!

  11. I read and felt the pain you went through! That phone is not cheap and yet one could easily fling it at someone’s face!
    Having lost my two years worth of Bonga point, and an Mpesa account with money in it. I’m a now an Airtel customer. My Safaricom number was dished out to someone else despite it having the Mpesa acc.
    All in all Customer service is rubbish in most companies

  12. Nokia is a great company but i guess its a few people who do not take responsibilities to customer services… #sad
    It needs Tech savvy representatives at the care points… it needs to be done ASAP.

    • It also needs some basic PR training. I don’t think I’ve met a single person who’s said “Those lovely ladies at Nokia are nice but incompetent.” The tune being sung is “Those snobbish, lazy borads are mean and incompetent.”

  13. I was told this as a general guide to customer service in Kenya…”It takes you 10 minutes to realize it’ll take an hour to get any attention”
    I have enough fukushima moments at customer care centres that i generally figure its better for my health to go the replace route and find someone with the patience of the Buddha and Gandhi combined to try to deal with Customer Care.

  14. “My Safaricom number was dished out to someone else despite it having the Mpesa acc”<– Farmgal was this during the porting process?

  15. It’s really sad.You had mad love for this phone. Nokia should just stick to making mulika mwizis.

    I had a similar experience with my phone, the N97. I gave up trying to get it fixed and just bought another. Tried selling the phone for 25k then15K but no one would buy it, so I use it as a paper-weight now.

    As for Safaricom, I have no words. I have exhausted all decent ones.

  16. Have you been to an Apple Store in the USA? Yaani, these guys/gals fall all over you to help you with what you need!

    They follow you like a puppy dog until you shoo them away.

    I miss the USA style customer service. The Nokia N8 is not a cheap phone so shouldn’t the service reflect the same?

    • I don’t think it’s about the cost of the phone. That would be reserving good customer care for those who can afford it. I think it’s basic human decency (and good business) to care for all your clients.
      I’m sure most of us had the experience as students of going into a shop where you were assessed and dismissed in a split second… It’s not a pretty feeling. Those are the places I avoid… to date. I wouldn’t go back if they paid me. And I wouldn’t let anyone I know go there. Yes, I would stop them.

      Then there are the people who treat you decently, and you never forget it. Never.

  17. When you work for a salary rather than passion and thrill, you do not deserve a job. When people are given a job they do not enjoy or love, when they do not have a liking for their employer, you tell by what you had to go through. But then again if you do not love what you do, be courteous to the customers you never know who will give your next job.

    An employee with a passion would have been fascinated by the bug and would have had the thrill of trying to understand what the issue is and how resolve it not just for you but subsequent customers. Those guys are there for a salary not even a job.

  18. That’s what you get when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. The recruitment process of hiring CC’s is designed to get poorly trained ‘pretty faces’ because of the misconceived and dated belief that CC’s are more about eye candy than competence. I agree, it’s not only heads that should roll but some serious change of policy. I can say with authority that if @bobcollymore changes only CC @SafaricomLtd he would transform the image of the company completely. Who really cares about 4G and sophisticated technology that half of us do not use or need? Invest in CC!

    • I’d hate to be hired by virtue of my “pretty face”. They don’t even hire strippers and bar maids in this country based on a “pretty face!” so what does that say about CC reps? To all the CC Reps out there.., do what the rest of us are doing – get some education and papers to boot. Perhaps then you’ll find a job you love and earned.

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  20. Don’t know about Nokia CS as I’m strictly a Samsung lady 🙂 But when it comes to Safaricom, there are only 2 branches I bother with. Galleria mall branch has the best best best CS. I can’t gush over them enough. Straight and to the point answers everytime and very attentive. Of course they are a new branch so could be maexcitos of finally having a job. Village market is also not too bad though there always seem to be too many people standing around doing nothing… I would steer clear of the town branches and Sarit branch at all costs.

  21. image is everything, so goes a popular tagline. it is a pity that a majority of companies including blue chip ones do not hearken to it’s client. I have had the pleasure of serving at a leading market research company and a teeny electronics servicing shop where we also repaired cell phones. lesson learned: courtesy and solutions keeps a customer happy;

  22. It’s good to see that there are other people who are as passionate about customer care as I am. For a moment there I thought I was going crazy. However, most of my bad Customer care experiences have been with banks.

  23. I think the problem is that these CC reps dont give a hoot about phones and technology. They dont get a thrill solving bugs and seeing a smile from a satisfied client. If I was Nokia or Safaricom I would hire Campus or college guys who love phones and keep tinkering with them. then get a manager who is abit tolerant to control them. They will be happy to be paid 25k parttime to be doing it in shifts. . cheap workforce thats passionate about the job.

  24. ha ha. .
    whenever i read this,i always end up laughing.
    but its so not right.
    kenyans need to learn that service with a smile will take you a long way!!

  25. @EK13 – stolen parts used to happen when Mashariki motors was still in operation… I am still veeeeeery bitter because they stole my air conditioning cooler thingy (so bitter).

    I bought an N8 from Safaricom that started hanging, went to customer care at Westgate and they were very helpful and told me that if I left it with them then it would take 4 days and if I went directly to the shop at Hilton it would take an hour. Needless to say I was misinformed. I went to see the airheads at the Hilton and they gave me the shpiel about 3 days to a week not counting weekends and public holidays. So I asked to speak to the actual tecchies…
    “The tecchies are not allowed to speak to customers” is what I was told
    “Why?” I asked
    “Just Because” came the reply
    “Ok… I’d like to see a tecchie please. I am the customer, I am giving you permission to allow them to talk to me..” I stated very calmly
    “Sorry, not possible”
    We continued in this vein for a little bit until… miracle of miracles, one of the hapless tecchies emerged from the back of the shop on his way out to lunch… I think.
    “Is that a tecchie?” I asked
    “Yes… But…”
    “Call him please…” I said in a calm but firm manner likely to suggest that I was not budging from that seat… Nay in fact I was just getting comfortable and ready to settle down for a good long wait and to commence a running commentary on my general observations of the goings on in that Nokia Care Centre (did I mention that I have a very loud voice… In fact there are times I wish it did not carry quite so clearly… But that’s another story…)
    Anyway the tecchie came. We spoke. My phone was sorted under the Safaricom warranty and it took 5 days (not counting weekends and public holidays).
    So far, so good… But I shall watch this space.

  26. Pingback: Customer Care is Not Enough: Do More, Say Less, Be Better | Diasporadical

  27. I feel what iCon must have gone through with the poor customer experience at Safaricom and Nokia. Not to make any excuses for the mess that was, we in customer care are quick to forget the impact of a poor customer contact. I can imagine how much time it took for iCon to post this blog! The problem that he had was a simple one but was mishandled and caused a spiral of unpleasant events. We in customer service need to learn from this experience and be careful of how we handle the customers.

    Thanks iCon for this blog. Next time i handle a customer on the phone, i will be sure to keep this blog in mind!

  28. Haijah, kumbe? I accidentally stumbled onto this thread as I was trying to find nokia cc hilton arcade’s contacts.. Lakini kama hivi ndivyo mambo yalivyo huko, acha tu niendelee kuvumilia kuwa mkenya, lol!

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  30. Hi i recently bought a nokia lumia 620 bt due to the very sensitive screen it cracked i went to the nokia care center(hilton hotel) & they told me it will cost me 7k am asking does it rilly cost that much to fix a crack? & should i trust them to fix my phone?

  31. Saturday 21/11/2015 afternoon I quickly rush to the Hilton Nokia care @3 pm before they close 3 counters only one being manned. The rest of the workers there are already packing to leave . I patiently wait for the customer before me to be assisted then at exactly 3:51 pm (after standing for at least 15 minutes),the lady at the counter says they are closed she can’t deal with any other customer. I explain myself that I had been running through mana ngIna street cause according to Google maps the Centre was past embassy house. Another worker let’s out a loud laughter while the woman at the counter gives me a disgust look. I say I just need my lumia 535 screen fixed she rudely replies “That you will wait till Monday (today) na ni 4K. Utangoja 3 days and you’ll lose all your data cause it must also be upgraded” I just wanted the screen fixed,someone please advice.

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