Ooredoo is a leading telecommunication company in the region with a rapidly growing customer base. In this interview, Mr. Radu Ciocan, Director of Group Customer Experience for Ooredoo discusses the company’s ideology and approach towards providing the ultimate Customer Experience at all levels. He also talks about the various changes and innovations that the organization has implemented to deliver this ideology.
Ooredoo recently reached a benchmark of 100 million customers. What service factors have played a role in achieving this benchmark?
Radu Ciocan: The Customer Service department is not directly involved in the acquisition of new customers, but indirectly, the tremendous improvement in the quality of our customer service has helped us increase our customer base to over 120 million customers. Two main service factors have had this “indirect” positive effect.
First of all, customer service is a critical factor for improving the loyalty of our customers. The significant reduction of our churn rate during the last year is very much the result of our efforts to continually improve the quality of service offered to our customers. If our sales and distribution employees are mainly responsible for acquiring new customers, the service employees are the ones mainly responsible for retaining the existing customer base, and reducing the churn rate to a minimum.
A second factor we have happily acknowledged in many of our operations is related to our “Care” brand value. Our efforts to consistently provide an excellent quality of service to our customers have been rewarded by customers – we are perceived in the market as the operator who cares the most for its customers. This image becomes an important decision factor for new customers when they make the choice of the operator they want to subscribe for.
How is Ooredoo incorporating the latest technologies in its services for providing a better Customer Experience?
Radu Ciocan: Over the past couple of years, Ooredoo has heavily invested in up-scaling the infrastructure of our call center operations towards state of the art technology. This statement applied to both assisted channels – routing platforms, CRM, workforce management, quality management, customer feedback management, etc. – as well as for the self-service channels – IVR, USSD, online, mobile, etc.
At the same time, we have already made significant progress in the digital transformation of our contact centers. As the “Care” Brand, we want to offer our customers, support on the channel of their choice. We want to be there where our customers are. With the growing popularity of social networks and OTT, we have also expanded our channel portfolio for assisted customer service. We already serve our customers on Facebook, twitter, instagram, online chat, online forums, etc. We are still in the early phases of our digital transformation; we will surprise our customers with more and more innovative solutions.
Do you feel Customer Expectations differ from region to region in terms of the level of customer care they expect?
Radu Ciocan: The key dimensions of the customer expectations in terms of “care” are the same, anywhere in the world: Customers want to be answered quickly by an agent, to be treated with respect, and to get their problem solved with minimal effort. What differs from region to region, from culture to culture and from one customer segment to another, is the threshold-value for these dimensions. For example, what is perceived as an acceptable waiting time is very different from one group to another.
With the growing trends in free internet calling, do you feel that this would impact the call plan services that you provide?
Radu Ciocan: Yes, dramatically. Our customers naturally are shifting their usage from voice and messaging to more and more data usage. This is a change that we’ve been anticipating and we are ahead of the game in embracing this transition. We provide price plans to answer different needs for different type of data users, bundling voice and data in attractive offers.
Ooredoo is not a Voice company anymore. We are a Data Company. We are more excited by the new revenue opportunities for data usage and services as we are concerned about the migration of our customers from using voice to using free internet calling.
What are your feedback processes to measure customer satisfaction with your services?
Radu Ciocan: Differentiating in Customer Experience is one of our 3 strategy pillars. We know that the foundation of improving customer experience is to continually listen to your customer feedback and accordingly continually improve the quality of services you provide.
In 2014, Ooredoo became the first company in the Middle East and North Africa to launch a state of the art customer feedback management platform: “VOCE“ Voice of Ooredoo Customer Experience. VOCE permits us to capture customer feedback after each and every customer transaction at all Ooredoo communication touch points, enabling us to analyze, monitor and react to customer feedback, all in real time. This platform has been fundamental in enabling us to improve and maximize customer experience across all touch points.
Last but not the least, VOCE enables us to rate and score all our customer service personnel and their personal impact on the customer experience. With Ooredoo’s Customer Service we let ourselves (and this means from myself through each local CC Director, down to every agent in the call center) be measured by our customer feedback. This is key to our customer centric culture.
In terms of service, what are the factors that you believe give you an edge over your competitors?
Radu Ciocan: Providing the ultimate customer experience differentiates us from our competitors. Customer Satisfaction is at the heart of Ooredoo’s customer centric philosophy and it is reflected in every aspect of our customer service operations.
Improving the customer experience with each and every transaction, eliminating one by one the root cause of customer dissatisfaction, reacting immediately and individually to each and every customer who is signalizing dissatisfaction – these are just some elements of our customer centric culture. Our customers are rewarding our efforts with continually better and better satisfaction feedback and this is our ultimate goal.
What also gives us the edge over our competitors is the cost conscious way in which we have improved our quality of service. During the last 2 years the tremendous improvements in the service experience have resulted in a cost reduction effect of over 40%. Even more, we have reached ‘break even,’ transforming our contact center from a cost center to a profit center. These great results have been rewarded by a series of professional conferences with regional awards in Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Indonesia, etc.
The reason for all this success and what really gives us the edge over our competition is the high expertise, professionalism and engagement of our leadership teams in each and every local operation, from South-East Asia, through North Africa, up to the Middle East.
How would you try to retain a customer who is planning on switching over to a competitor?
Radu Coican: Customer retention starts the first day after they sign the contract with us. We act day by day in such a way that our customer will not have any reason to leave us for the competition. We are still not perfect yet. We still make mistakes but the first thing we do when one of our valuable customer’s is signalizing intention to leave, is to try to understand the mistake we have made, and resolve it to the customer’s satisfaction.
What are your views about the statement: “The Customer is always right?”
Radu Ciocan: I believe that “The customer is always right” statement is a misconception and not true. If we accept unconditionally that ‘the Customer is always right’ each time, most businesses would end up in bankruptcy. There are scenarios where a customer may not be well informed or sometimes they may even try to push the boundaries to get some financial benefits. Billing issues are one example where a customer may misinterpret the tariff plan they signed up for, thinking they have been overcharged for example, resulting in a customer complaint or an unhappy customer. In such cases, the right approach would be to empathetically educate the customer, to provide them with the correct information and resolve the issue in an amiable and professional manner. Our employees are well trained to solve these situations in the most amiable and professional way.
In your opinion, which country amongst those that you provide services to, has the fastest growing customer base and why?
Radu Ciocan: Myanmar. With a population of 60 million people, it’s a market that was previously untapped by the telecom industry.
What are your customer complaint procedures and in what order of priority are they resolved?
Radu Ciocan: We categorize our complaints into two main dimensions; by the value of the customer, and the criticality of the complaint itself. These 2 dimensions create the matrix for prioritization. A complaint such as a network disruption for example, would be placed on high priority as it impacts a larger consumer base.
Do you offer customer service and support in multiple languages catering to your diverse customer base?
Radu Ciocan: Definitely. For our customers in the Middle East, service is available in the region’s three main languages: English, Arabic and Hindi. In North Africa we speak French and the local Arabic dialects, in Iraq we speak Kurdish and Arabic, etc.
What services and features do you plan to introduce in the coming year to further enhance the customer experience?
Radu Ciocan: We will be launching some new innovative features and services soon. Keep in touch. There are some great surprises on the way.
About Radu Ciocan
Radu Ciocan is the Director of Group Customer Experience at Ooredoo Group covering 10 countries and 120 Million customers in the Middle East, North Africa and South-West Asia since January 2013.
With over 20 years of multinational telecom Operational and Customer Management experience, he has held prior designations as Vice President of Sales & Customer Service with T-Mobile (Bonn, Germany) and Vice President of Customer Service with Deutsche Telekom Europe (Bonn, Germany).
He has transformed the Customer Care operation across Ooredoo Group from a Cost Center into a Profit Center and at the same time he improved the service experience towards a key competitive differentiator in the markets. He has played a fundamental role in introducing and deploying innovative Customer Experience Management solutions, which includes “VOCE” – ‘Voice of Ooredoo Customer Experience’ across all Ooredoo operations with highly successful results.