Utility companies in Uganda challenged on slow response to complaints

Utility companies in Uganda challenged on slow response to complaints
Umeme's Chief Operations Officer Florence Nsubuga notes innovation is one of the core values as Umeme continues to improve customer experience by introduction of self service options

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Utility companies in Uganda have been challenged to put in place quick response systems towards consumer complaints.

The call by State Minister for Energy Simon D’Ujanga came after numerous complaints about the slow response of service providers (utility companies) mainly Umeme, whenever there is a supply failure or any other concern from the public.

While Umeme’s social media sites have been hailed as some of the most interactive and helpful, it is common for complaints lodged to be followed by complaints of delays in handling the situation. Most of the complaints to Umeme, as one of the most crucial utility companies in Uganda, are about unexplained power outages.

D’Ujanga says that while Umeme replies almost promptly to the online complaints, complainants get more frustrated when the issue persists for longer especially without an update on what the company is doing. He was commenting on Umeme’s upgraded digital system that enables the whole connection application process to be done online using either a smartphone or a computer.

The digital system is accessible on the Umeme App on a smartphone or on the portal MyUmemeOnline, on the Umeme website. Umeme says that apart from improving efficiency, the system will help eliminate middlemen who allegedly take advantage of the prospective customers who do not have information or have no time to process documents.

Umeme’s Chief Operations Officer Florence Nsubuga said the digital innovations will go a long way in cutting the response time. Currently, the system that is being developed will be enabled by the Global Positioning System (GPS) technology so that if a fault is reported by a consumer, the Umeme office will be able to immediately locate the spot where the fault is.

The idea is also to have a fault responded to by the staff of Umeme who will be nearest to the spot at that time. However, Nsubuga says the system is work-in-progress.

Umeme Managing Director Selestino Babungi says that middlemen drive the cost of services to the consumers up yet they are not commissioned by either government or Umeme. The company says it is improving the system to include those who do not have smartphones.

Babungi says these innovations are also in preparation for the expected sharp increase in demand for electricity connections as the economy rebounds. The expected demand is also based on the transmission (evacuation) projects that are being carried out to deliver power from the generation plants to closure to residences and industries.

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Minister D’Ujanga says so far, five industrial parks have been connected with the transmission lines and more will be connected, while they have also launched a program to connect power to the remaining sub-counties around the country. He says that his will help increase the demand for power and lead to a reduction in the costs of electricity since more of the generated power will be consumed.

The government has also put in place a special credit facility for those households who need power but do not have enough money to pay for the house wiring, while those with small houses that need only a bulb and a socket will not be charged for wiring.

The Minister hopes that all these, on top of the Electricity Connection Policy which provides free connection services will boost demand for energy in a few years.