Delivering services

Published: October 12, 2012

An organisation, public or private, is as good in the public eye as the effectiveness of its delivery of service. Financial input, physical infrastructure and human resource fail to achieve the desired outcome if this effectiveness is not among the major goals of the organisation. Such goal setting goes beyond the efficient supply of the service and profit maximisation. Customer care and facilitation build reputation and trust, which contribute to the acquisition of a competitive edge. A common perception is that the private sector delivers better than the public sector. Since my retirement from the government in 2007, I have made it a point to personally go to every window of service delivery. Perhaps, with limited ‘connections’, having returned from Islamabad to Lahore after about three decades, I had no choice. I have stood in long queues in scorching heat at public sector outlets and I have sat on comfortable sofas in air-conditioned private sector outlets. In general, my experience is mixed and, at certain places, favourable to the public sector.

The delivery of pension is what matters most to a retired person. A poorly staffed and underprovided branch of the National Bank on Davis Road does a fairly good job of it. Private banks have been reluctant to take up this thankless undertaking. Bank Alfalah took a week to change the title of an account. It also made the inexplicable mistake of reversing my entire deposit to an ex-employer. Pensioners and other small savers frequent National Savings Centres to make some additional income. A modest and overcrowded Centre on Abbot Road has not yet disappointed me in its dealings. OCS, a courier service, runs a public-private partnership with the Higher Education Commission for delivering verified degrees. It demanded more paper work and took far longer than the Post Office would have required just to refund Rs800. Information on what needed to be done was also provided piecemeal rather than all at once and in advance. When visiting your house to deliver a service, the PTCL employees still expect to be paid for their transport, charge more than the market for any wires or accessories and ask you to provide screwdrivers, etc. There is no advance warning for the kind of reception they should be provided. Once they leave, the call centre chases you ad nauseam to wrench out of you a certificate of satisfaction. The experience with LESCO and SNGPL is much better. Response time for calls is tolerable and the waiting time for the workers to arrive is less than you anticipate. The workers also seem to know what they are doing.

My worst experience has been with Mobilink. While visiting Spain on our return from Cambridge, my wife and I were robbed of all our belongings in Barcelona, including my cell phone. A disconnection request was emailed the same day. The company failed to act in time and the robber was able to make calls worth a lakh rupees in a matter of two days. Repeated requests to redress the injustice have gone unheeded. Instead, I have been threatened with legal action if I do not pay for the calls not made by me. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Punjab Consumer Council, the public sector regulatory authorities, have not responded to my emails either.

The above are the personal experiences of an individual, not a representative and large enough sample required for a systematic study to draw somewhat reliable conclusions about who cares more for the customer. To an ordinary citizen, however, what counts is what (s)he experiences, not what researchers conclude long after the harm has been done.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • adnan
    Oct 13, 2012 - 2:52PM

    good piece of writing.i have same experience with wordcall.My cabble connection got some fault and it took 4 days for worldcall to solve the issue.this happened in clifton block 6.


  • usman786
    Oct 13, 2012 - 5:45PM

    I was forced to apply for PTCL cable connection as the local cable wala was asking Rs 3500 as installation charges though line was already there and previous tenant paid it. PTCL officially has 15 days cushion to put things in place. Others (private) have no coverage in my area.


  • bball
    Oct 14, 2012 - 12:09PM

    Wow, what a clueless piece of writing! It started out as an exercise on organizational effectiveness and finished with the gems implying a conclusion that public services are the way to go… Perhaps we expect govt departments to be our property to be taken advantage of that’s why our retired govt officials have such pleasant experiences with them :)


  • Ayaan
    Oct 15, 2012 - 2:50PM

    I somewhat agree with the Dr. Pervez. While our public sector services may not be remarkable, yet not all of them are as bad as perceived by most people.

    More importantly, I have observed that we as a nation are impatient, and always look for the “easy” way out. So those who can afford, go for private services, and where not possible, use the ‘quick’ buck (to bribe).

    My effort has always been to try and follow the defined process first. So when it comes to renewing my driving license (which I’ve done 3 times now at Clifton Karachi), visiting our local NBP branch every month or so for my mother’s pension, getting my or my family members’ NIC renewed, visiting the Passport office, submitting annual house and motor vehicle taxes etc.; I’ve always tried to do things on my own first.
    [If it makes any difference, this is despite the fact that I come from an Army family background (my father retired as a Brig.) where we had plenty of human resource services at our disposal and so called ‘contacts’. Just that my parents always taught us to do our own work.]

    So why is it that whenever we need to do get something done, the first thing that pops into our minds is “What’s the easiest way to do it?”, or similar thoughts like “Oh man! This is impossible.”

    I’m not saying you’ll always be successful; but I encourage people to at least make an effort.


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