What really happened to your Airtel airtime


Last week many subscribers lost airtime mysteriously from their phones and complained about the customer service centres not being able to give explanations, or their calls going unanswered on the toll free customer care lines but now an answer has been given,

According to the Zambia Information and Telecommunications Authority (ZICTA) Public Relations Manager, Ngabo Nankonde, the err was due to the fact that some 28000 prepaid subscribers on the Airtel network were mistakenly entered into the system as “roaming” customers.

The total amount of airtime that went ‘missing’ was over $178000 (over K900,000)  Airtel claims to have paid it all back by last week Tuesday and even threw in 30 free minutes (strictly for Airtel-to-Airtel calls) to each affected subscriber.

However, ZICTA has urged anyone who has not received their refund up to now to call the Airtel Customer Care line (111) or call the ZICTA helpline 7070.

In the same week coincidentally, internet speeds were at their slowest probably due to the congestion that the free Facebook promotion brought about. but they have gradually improved, still not the fastest, but enough to get work done.


In a discussion with my fellow writer Mulilo Mulilo, he suggested the following steps to have been taken by Airtel as internet pre-checks before launching the product;

  • Understand the product
  • Make sure there is a correct charge for product or service from current user accounts.
  • Ensure the new product/service is easily integrated into existing platforms.
  • Check to make sure the existing platform can handle the increase in traffic from the service. 

According to Daniel Tardy, a marketing expert, in an article called Sell the Launch, most organizations will have the following amateur product life cycle, regardless of what industry it is:

launch-(1)The 5th point should always be a “YES”. Granted, not everything works out right the first time, but you shouldn’t have to completely start over with your brilliant idea.

What Airtel and every other mobile operator now needs to do is plan well ahead and test new products in Friendly User Tests (FUTs) before they roll them out to their users to avoid things like internet crashes and airtime deductions from happening. Some promotions require excessive use of resources such as cell towers which lead to congestion and slow down the entire user experience so Stress Tests should be put into consideration.

That way there is a lesser risk of losing brand loyalty from their consumers and avoid ‘hate mail’ on their social media pages that may influence the decision of new potential clients who may be misled by the negative comments.

Another thing telecoms companies should work on is communication. Customers need to know  a detailed explanation of what’s going on immediately anything out of order happens. This might save relations between both parties as the customer will know they are not being ignore when they send in queries.

Not all freebies come without costs.

Image Credit: Airtel Facebook PageElephant Hunters





Tech Blogger & Marketer.