Three years back, National Water and Sewerage Corporation had operations in 23 towns; currently the organization has been able to extend its services to 148 new towns bringing it to a total coverage of 171 towns to date. This was revealed during a customer meeting session dubbed “Celebrating our water heroes”#NWSCWaterHeroes on Twitter. The session included staff of national water, invited customers and the online community which included social media influencers and bloggers.
The organization has for a long time practiced the art of bringing all the stake holders closer to the institution through continuous engagements in communities and online. Without doubt this entity seems to have mastered what many organizations grossly underestimate and that is close customer engagement for information to the customers and feedback from the customers. Every single day there are more customer complaints and feedback issues resolved online through the organization’s social media platforms. This is in addition to the customer toll free lines that were confirmed effective by one of the customers who testified having been surprised by the tele- customer care team that picked his call in the late hours of the night. “I was paying my bill but realized my document had a missing digit, I called the toll free line at night and my issue was resolved.” testified Allan Ssempebwa one of the customers in attendance.
For those present at the occasion, one thing seemed clear and that is none other than the distinct leadership style of the Managing Director Dr. Eng. Silver Mugisha who has risen through different levels for the past 23 years to his current role at the organization. His wide experience with the operations at National Water & Sewerage Corporation and leading a passionate and enthusiastic team are some of the factors Dr. Silver attributes to their current but continuing success. Last year alone, the organization managed to cover over 1400Km as compared to 80Km per year for the last three years. “We are an institution that provides water but also done by the most suitable person” mentioned the Managing Director during his remarks.
One may wonder why so many organizations have not yet risen above self to appreciate customer engagement and feedback. The answer lies in the words of Samuel Apedel who is the Public Relations Manager; he said “Where there is service, you should always expect a crisis. We must accept our mistakes and avoid running away from the problem but rather provide a solution to our esteemed customers” That kind of attitude and approach to customer related complaints and feedback are some of the explanations why National Water has been able to stand above other utility service providers in the region.
The institution has also been actively involved in innovations to ensure better, efficient and cost effective service delivery in the region. As a result the Information Technology team was able to develop an in-house billing system which has been able to save National water a sum of Ug Shs.1.2 billion per year on licenses alone. Key to note was the fact that the innovation efforts have all been focused on local developers within Uganda. Due to the ability to provide water services to the community efficiently, national water now offers external services other countries within Africa and beyond. Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria are among the countries that are already benefiting from the institutions external services.
Despite the above successful trends at national water, the institution still faces a number of challenges that hinder full excellent execution of their primary duties. These include the following;
Rampant water theft which causes huge financial loss to the institution. National water has patterned with the Uganda Police and Judiciary to curb the vice. The institution has also appealed to all customers to watch out and report all those using illegal connections to access water.
Delayed payments from some of the customers that use the national water services. These can be institutions or individuals that take a very long duration to clear their water bills which hinders timely service delivery since the water bills are always not cleared on time.
Limited budget to extend water services to new communities. For the last three years national water has proved that a lot can be achieved by ensuring delivery on the set coverage targets. This has created a huge ray of hope from the government to increase their budget allocation to the institution. For example in the coming three years with the support of the government, the institution is going to set up a water source for all villages in the urban centers.
With an inclusive culture that seeks to involve all stake holders , the above mentioned few challenges among others , the institution is very optimistic that by ensuring that every stake holder fulfills their role ranging from clearing water bill in time to availing the required logistics for operations, the sky will be the limit. It’s my prayer and hope that other institutions can emulate National Water and Sewerage Corporation to leverage on the online platforms so as to improve customer experience. We also need to note that people and systems must work together so as to improve service delivery in our country.
By Mwebya Fred