AlbTelecom – The Turkish way of handling business
Let’s start by making something clear. I like the turkish people! Beside the fact that they are hotblooded (just like us, the Albanians), they are one of the most entrepreneurship persons you can find in the world. That I learned in a seminar in Turkey a couple of years ago (and it was not a turkish statistic!?). It was the Germans that has first noticed the ability of the Turkish to take risks and initiate new businnesses.
I won’t talk about the turkish restaurants and the turkish small business around the Europe. They have done a great job and they have practically mastered the market. Instead I will talk about a big turkish company in Albania.
Four years ago, AlbTelecom (Albanian Telecom), the albanian core service provider for telephony services was sold to Çalık Group. The AlbTelecom was considered a pearl from the albanian public companies that were placed for sale from the Albanian Government. The company was the only licenced telephony provider (a monopol) and the only Internet backbone company in Albania. In a roten communist country as my country was, there was not so much space for innovation or smart investments from a state company. Selling Albtelecom was an expected move and everyone was hopping to have a new foreign player with a will for investements and innovations. (We also loved the fact that a Turkish and not a Greek company has entered our communication market. Vodafone and AMC, both part of Panaphone and Cosmote Greece have been operating in the Mobile Telephonie for some years in Albania.)
History of Telephony in Albania
Having a phone line in the ’80s in Albania was luxury. The phones at home, were a privilege of the highest communist party members, the highest directors and you rarely could find someone else having a phone home. The situation was the same even in the late ’90s, I remember walking to my best friends house, just to call my girlfriend asking her about goingout plans. If this sounds strange to you, read out the next sentence. In year 2004, when we had to change office for our own software-developing company, we were unable to get a fixed phone line. Although we had Cell phones, I could not get a fixed telephone line for my company. I had to ask everyone I knew around to finally get a telephone (after 4 months) just because my father-in-law “knew” somebody in the AlbTelecom. (And I am feel terribly bad as I write this line).
This is how they do it!
Happy enough we started making business cards, flyers, and publishing the phone number on all the websites we own. We also run some advertisements in a National Television and of course the phone number was part of the TV Messages. For five years, we have build a little bit of marketing around that phone number and the customers called there for problems or new projects where our assistance was needed. Everything looked fine until last month …
I called back in the company from Germany one day and I was surprised to get a female message saying that “the Phone Number has changed”! Changed? I knew that one extra digit was inserted some time ago but I was sure to have dialed the correct number. I switched to call a Mobile line of my brother who runs the company now. Also confused he informed me that they have cut out the phone line without any notification. He has called to ask for the reason and he was informed that this was not a defect. AlbTelecom was changing some phone lines and also the telephone numbers in the area. I felt really frustrated. I realized that they are creating chances for more phone numbers in the area. That was expected, but shutting down company phone lines is heavy damaging. All those marketing costs, all that down time is killing for a small company. And yet there is nothing to be done.
I call this a turkish was of handling business! I could not imagine even an Albanian company, or a company from another country dealing with this situation in this manner. Showing no respect for your customers is terrible. I know that Phone Numbers, just as domains can be re-routed and although it is not easy, it is not impossible. Frustration does not help, I tried to forget about the issue and move on with a new phone number we got. At least we got that within 15 days. Let’s forget it I said. Change the marketing materials, change every trace of the old phone number. Notify the clients.
I almost forgot about the old phone number when one day I had a customer and friend of mine (it is nice when customers become your friends) telling me that he tried to reach us on the old office number. I was about to smile and explain when he interrupted: “A family has your phone number. At least they were nice!”
A family? Within 15 days the AlbTelecom has reallocated our old phone number and assigned it to a family!!
I really hoped that they were a nice family. I did not want to imagine if some clients call and some rude and unpolite persons shouts them in the other side just because he was midday sleeping and he got bored from these phone calls. Hoping!
Well, here is the end line. Surrender. Opening a case is time consuming and justice does not yet understand the customer rights in my country. Complaining will not work as this is not a mistake from a departement of AlbTelecom. It is a principle of the company that they do what they want and how they want it.
At least I can write this blog in English and hope that it will pop up on the search terms for AlbTelecom or Cetel and Calik Group. Maybe some (young) executive will see it and take some time to reflect on the customer rights in the future.
P.S In May (’09) I also got married. Just one day before my matrimony, my home phone line was cut down with the same message (and no notification). “This phone number has changed”. Pitty, those days before you get married you are happy because everyone calls and congratulates you about one of the most important dates in your life. Especially those friends and relatives that where unable to attend but want to share the joy with you. I left few days after my wedding and there was no signal at my home. Today is 5th of June and my family has no phone yet. Mom, I will call you later, when AlbTelecom pleases.
From some years now, I have noticed an odd phenomenon happening with foreigners who live in Albania, or cohabit with Albanians: they start playing with our same rules, with our same tactics and strategy. Why?! I think most of us know why, as the Albanian environment is very similar to a “Street Fight” match, where there are no rules (they are written somewhere, but in the mist of so many critical problems our country is going through, there are many aspects that are not being supervised as they should from the government) and you make your owns… And in this chaotic society it is very convenient for Albtelecom or Cetel and Calik Group, and many others, to do as they please. And they will keep doing the same thing over and over again as long as there are no real “game rules”, as long as there is no higher institution that supervises and regulates these companies for the stake oh its citizens welfare and for the stake of justice.
What happened to you and many others is a disgrace and a pity. I am pretty sure that this Turkish company wouldn’t have dared to behave in such manners in their own country. Surrendering is not the right way, I don’t believe that this is the best solution (you would probably think I am naïve, and I might be). As individual you won’t probably get the chance to be heard, but if you find other voices to join yours, then you might start believing again that something can be done. The power is in being united and fighting together and not alone. If you remember from elementary school, this was one of the first “lessons” they taught us.
Like you, I have been living abroad from some years now. Therefore if my above statements are not true any longer, please feel free to correct me.
Ky eshte faji i shtetit tone, if they pass a simple law Alb Telecom couldn’t do that. Without the law, since they’re a monopoly they can easily get away with being rude and plain horrible customer service; you have no choice but to suck it up and patiently wait for your new phone number they assign to you.
To make matter worse, the sale agreement most likely has clauses that prohibit the state from introducing new competitors or regulating it too much. Basically, you are at their mercy.
You should consider VOIP if this gets out of hand.
Well I understand your feelings Mandi, some years ago I experienced the same thing in my appartment. When I moved in ’95 from Varri Bamit neighborhood to Ali Demit, I used to have a phone number which in order to keep it, my father asked someone working in Albtelecom to fix it so we could still have the same number although in a different neighborhood. And that existed fine until 2002 when they cut our line and without any notification or knowledge, we hoped in the goodwill and understanding of Albtelecom to fix the connection. 7 months passed by and although complains were sent to their office, no action was taken from their side. Apparently because we had the wire on air, the company had invested on ground wires and to make this thing funny, they already had provided new numbers to other neighbors and not us. Also, when we asked for a new number, we got the response that there were no more numbers left. No logic in that.
I’m not going to mention how much was the cost of using only cellphones between family members for 7 straight months. How did we fix this issue? By chance my father got to know someone who in turn knew someone who was a director in the company. How fast did we get the number? The second day.
In this country it’s best to not have to deal with these institutions, no matter who runs them. But you’re right about the turkish way of handling business, as this case is occurring to you while they’re running the company. Most likely they haven’t completely gone through reforming Albtelecom.