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It has been quite a hectic time for DStv in Uganda, and is getting even more so as Multi Choice customer services manager, Patricia Sentongo, explained to Kalungi Kabuye.

DStv has been in Uganda for quite a while. How are you doing?

DStv was launched in Uganda in April, 1997 and, like in every service industry, you face challenges.

Sometimes you are not able to address the needs based on the subscribers' perception of the service. The fact that the public initially perceived us as a product for the rich, was also a challenge in itself but over time, that has changed.

I think it is important to bridge the information gap and sensitise our customers on our support services.

What causes that information gap? What are you doing to close it?

Most of the common queries are to do with customer service and our pricing structure. For example, over the weekends, especially if there is a big match, we do experience a high influx of customers. To close this gap, we opened up a branch at the Garden City Shopping Centre. For subscribers with hectic working schedules, we have extended working hours at the Garden City branch from 5:00pm to 7:00pm.

We have also partnered with Shell where our subscribers can pay their subscriptions till 11:00pm. The option of bank standing orders is also in place. All these solutions have been tailored to meet subscriber needs.

Why do people wait till it is the end of the month or when there is a big game before they pay up?

We do not have straight answers to this trend. However, on our part, we regularly send out account expiry messages to our subscribers encouraging them to pay in advance to avoid auto disconnections and the long queues.

Can one pay for, say, 10 days or per view? Is it possible for one to pay for just what they want to watch?

Presently, we do not offer pay per view services. I am not aware of any Pay TV company that offers such a service as its core business model.

There is apparently some discontent with your telephone systems? What is your comment?

Based on the feedback that we receive, our customers detest waiting in the queue before we can serve them.

However, it's important to note that call centre environments are characterised by multiple in-bound calls hence the queues.

To counter this challenge, a while ago, we introduced a cost effective SMS line 0772-777703 which can be used to request for service.

Why don't you have a toll-free line?

We cannot justify having a toll free line.

When people call, what are their major problems?

Many of the customer queries relate to billing, account reconnections and technical issues. One could minimise calling into our service centre by ensuring that they update their accounts in time.

If they have paid, how long does it take before they are re-connected?

Provided we have all the customer's payment details and the decoder is switched on, the reconnection is instant.

What about the Dish magazine? The TV guide?

Every DStv subscriber is entitled to a free Dish magazine.

Additionally, with the help of a remote control unit, subscribers have the option to access TV schedules via Channel 1 on their digital satellite decoders.

What is the most reported technical problems?

The three most common problems are loss of signal either because of the shift in the antennae or failure of the LNB (unit on top of the dish) or failure of the decoder due to a power surge.

What typically happens when a person calls in with decoder problems?

All our call centre staff, in addition to customer services and billing, undergo extensive technical training. So they will talk the caller through the problem. If that does not work, maybe you do need a technician to come physically to your house.

It happened one day when a customer's decoder was unplugged by a maid who was vacuuming behind the TV. But he didn't know that. So he called in for help.

Some people think your services are expensive, and that it is because you are a monopoly?

We believe our service is value for money.

There are a number of substitutes to our service, for example, cable operators and cinemas.

While we screen the English Premier League, Pulse TV and UBC TV also screen some of these matches on a delayed basis. We offer much more than the Premiership.

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