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Failing Failure

Kamal Dimachkie 2

Kamal Dimachkie, executive regional managing director of Leo Burnett - UAE, Kuwait and Lower Gulf talks about dealing with massive business and customer-related failure

September 12, 2012 12:55 by

by Kamal Dimachkie

It was a massive failure by any stretch of the imagination. The short of it is that a telecom operator in the region promised existing and new subscribers a wonderful opportunity to call a number of their choice for free between 8:00 PM and 4:00 AM, be it a land line or a mobile one. The promotion applied for pre as well as postpaid. Existing subscribers were overjoyed, new subscribers rushed in; it looked like a happy occasion, only that people did not get acknowledgement, the service wasn’t provided, the promotion had no clear terms and conditions, and – to add insult to injury- the operator decided to pull the plug on the promotion without advising their customers.

Rarely do the stars of incompetence line up so well to produce a failure the kind that was recently witnessed. One wonders how many people collaborated to produce the rapid fire of one failure after another all compounded to produce a massive backlash, and it is wonderful that there has been a backlash for without it this would have been yet another incident when people’s rights have been sacrificed yet again, and corporate obligation would have gone unchallenged.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this incident took place very recently at a time when people have repeatedly learnt the virtue of individual action, when the region continues to bask in the sun of spring be it “Arab,” “consumer,” or any other kind of spring during which individuals get together and commit to overcoming the barrier of fear, become outspoken and develop the audacity of demanding accountability, and in so doing create positive change along the way.

The ensuing uproar and furor got so many stakeholders involved; from the corporation to the telecom regulatory authority, from the competition to the ministry of telecommunication all the way to His Excellency the minister himself. It was fascinating to watch, as there was an unusual collage of retreat and condemnation, to distancing and disconnectedness. Needless to say, the higher one escalated the less there was a feel for what the people felt.

Massive as the failure must have been, the big question is “What next?” Interestingly, every organization that has touched this development has, perhaps, unwittingly declared a position and made a commitment. We now need to find out what will this commitment be, and what will it produce. Will this turn out to be yet another failure along the way that gets squandered by all, or will something good come out of it, perhaps some sort of rebirth or awakening that propels all towards a better tomorrow?

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” This is valuable wisdom for the operator and for all organisations that fail their respective constituencies, the people who trust them enough to buy their products and services in the hope that they are engaged in honest trade and where they get decent value for their money. Can organisations capitalize on such massive defeats to ensure the pain is temporary and that it is cultivated to create the necessary checks and balances, and to ensure proper hiring of competent talent that thrives on a job well done? Will they actually act, or will they simply bounce from one failure to another until they ultimately meet with a final defeat, and thereby quit on those who need them, and those in whose lives they play an important role?

Will the TRA, the concerned ministry of telecommunication, and the minister himself actually use this incident to bring the telecommunication industry into shape and restore people’s faith in its potential, and allow it to add value to their lives and livelihoods? Or will they be observers and witnesses to its unraveling and breakdown?

For many a consumer, corporate failure is tough to swallow, and it is a sin; one though that can be forgiven assuming corporations and brands make amends, that they own up to their acts, that they are transparent and open, and that they take actual concrete steps to fixing their issues. Ultimately, people can live up with mistakes and with some degree of failure, for they are human and understand the humanity involved in corporations, for as long as corporations act with a measure of humanity. People expect that brands will try better and that they will get it right.

Winston Churchill once said that success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. He did not, however, say, that success is stumbling from incompetence and ineptitude to incompetence and ineptitude. He recognized that in man’s attempt to succeed he will miss and fail, and therefore placed tremendous value in failure. Let us pray that those involved in the recent AlloFail debacle will not fail failure itself, for then the people are doomed.

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