Have you ever put someone on hold whilst on the phone, and the button failed to hold?
That’s exactly what happened to Belcha, who was singing on the other end. That moment, and a comment from a customer led him to joining the Safaricom Choir.
How would you describe your role at Safaricom?
The Small Medium Enterprises Channels department fits under the larger Enterprise Business Unit, and I’m passionate about how Information Technology connects with people in Kenya and in the East Africa. Technology makes sense when it transforms lives and when it applied appropriately to solve a problem and satisfy a need.
Did your passions or your education lead you to this role, or was it a chance you took to join the customer care department?
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I remember telling my sister that I want to work with Safaricom, without even knowing what role I wanted to take. Since it is a telecommunications company, I knew my skills and education would not go to waste. As such, when I got a chance to work in customer care I was very excited at the opportunity.
Was I driven by passion? Yes, to work in a technology company. At that time, mobile phone technology was a marvel. It created the hunger, curiosity and desire for me to keep going. Since I had a done an Information Communication Technology related course, Safaricom seemed like a proper fit for this. My landing in Customer Care was by chance, and I viewed it as information service. I found it easy to relate to customers and provide the needed information passionately, fast and sufficiently to resolve issues. I found the department highly organized and well structured.
You’ve made an unusual move, from Care to Sales.
After working in Customer Care for some time, I developed an urge to do Tele-Sales, that desire sent me to real sales after one year of selling Bambanet (mobile data) and that started my journey into account management and enterprise sales. I enjoyed being the one making it happen as opposed to handling the after-sales service. Besides, my previous experience in sales at a bank and then customer care had to come into play. Somehow, I found myself in business to business sales. It was a risk and I enjoyed the challenge. I thank the managers who gave me this chance.
Has your background in IT helped make a difference at work?
Yes, quite a lot. While many people would find it difficult to explain how internet works, inter-branch connectivity, Local Area Network, and other terms, for me it was so easy. I could effortlessly relate to what I had studied in University. I could see the challenge faced by some of my colleagues who had no ICT background, and I utilized that to chance to help them whenever they would get stuck.
However, we as technicians tend to use jargon as part of our every day lingo. There was a time when I was providing support services to a client whose internet service was not working, and I asked the client to switch off the radio. And the client did. From the monitoring system on my end though, I could see it was still on. When I asked if he had switched it off and he said yes, insisting that all was now silent. It then hit me that the client had switched the normal radio instead of the internet equipment for internet which in our jargon is also called a radio. I learned to simplify my language to customers from then on.
Having quit jobs within 1 year before, what made you stay at Safaricom and what impact do you think this has had on you?
When I joined Safaricom, I never thought I would stay for long, I had made a habit of moving to another role or company after one year. Safaricom offered me many facets for me to learn, test my limits and expand my experience. I found it apt to stay on. It has been more than a decade since I joined.
I’m also a trainer in sales, working toward certifications. I got interested in this due the fact that I realized I have had so many experiences in sales that I can share, and new sales people learn from it. I like training since it allows me to travel a lot. Were it not for such training opportunities, I wouldn’t have visited Garissa in my life.
Being on the road constantly, what are the challenges and rewards?
Being on the road is a good thing, it gives you the flexibility to think, strategize and to plan well. Most of the time you need to multitask, think of the next activity as you drive from one client to the next one. More of working on your heels. I have found it challenging since you must juggle so many things. One of the things that a sales job teaches is to have a good rapport with stakeholders since the interactions cuts across so many teams. The up-side is that I have learned to be adaptive, disciplined and strategic. This applies for me even in my own personal life. I can run so many things at the same time and deliver on all of them. It also instills self-discipline and proper time management.
Sales is a very target driven job. What makes you keep doing it?
This is true, the targets can sometimes make you go sick when you are not hitting them. I have learned to breakdown the annual target into months and days and hours of the day. That way I know what is expected of me every minute of my day.
What keeps me going is interactions I make with customers. When I get to learn what they do, their problems and the help they need; it becomes my task, my burden, to help them out. In addition, the referrals and proper management of my pipeline keeps me going.
I remember delivering internet on fiber optic to one of my clients, an ICT manager, moving his service from a competing brand. That earned him a promotion and salary increase as the firm now had an internet service that was now more stable and reliable. When my clients are happy and successful, the same trickles down to me.
You’re an avid tree planter, restoring and conserving the environment bit by bit. Have you kept count, and in what areas have you planted trees around Kenya?
I worked in Western Kenya Region for some time from 2015 to 2018. And I used to drive around a lot to cover the whole region. Then, I heard about carbon emissions from vehicles. I thought about it and the idea of planting trees was borne. Since then I have planted a minimum of 500 tree seedlings every year. Mostly, this has been at our home during the long rain seasons. I have also joined a group that has an ambition of reforesting the former Maragoli Hills that was destroyed in the early 90s. MAHERI – Maragoli Hills Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, has a dream of growing the forest back. My rallying call is every staff and every Safaricom subscriber to plant one tree and look after it until it grows to maturity.
Tell us about how you joined the Safaricom Choir
While I was the call center, we had a console, (desk phone) that we used to log in to receive the calls on Line 100. Sometimes you would put a customer on hold to consult or check some information then get back to the client.
This one time I put the client on hold, and as I was checking I started singing, a Swahili song by John Nzenze – Namliya Susana. When I came back to the customer, he said, “eh na kijana unajua kuimba…” The hold button had failed me!
I took it as a compliment and decided to join Safaricom Choir, and I’ve enjoyed spending my time making music.