Anne Qureshi (December 11, 2013)
With a growing market and increasing competition, service quality has become an important means of differentiation and path to achieve business success. To accomplish the same, UAE telecom enterprises are swiftly adapting to new technological imperatives and are becoming more customer-centric, focusing on customer needs rather than product features. For instance, telecom providers have moved beyond selling connectivity to corporate customers and now offer full network and security solutions.
UAE telecommunication companies are becoming increasingly concerned with the concept of customer-centricity, making a shift from traditional product-centric philosophy to customer-centric culture.
(Etisalat Customer Care Centre earns certification to new COPC Customer Service Provider Standard)
According to a press release by Corporate Communication Department Etisalat, the Ajman based, Customer Care Centre has recently achieved certification to new COPC Customer Service Provider Center. This COPC certification is an indication of Etisalat’s customer-centric service operations and intensive commitment in the areas of customer satisfaction, revenue, service, quality and cost.
Emphasizing the significance of customer-centric approach and describing Etisalat’s vision to achieve globally recognized benchmark in service excellence, the Director of ‘More Loyalty Programme’ at Etisalat, Adnan Idress says:
‘To be the most exciting and entertaining customer centric loyalty program, touching every aspect of members’ life to facilitate additional value through instant and passive rewards in a convenient and customer friendly environment, using state of the art technology, metamorphosing into Total Customer Relationship.’
(A technological revolution towards customer-centric approach)
– Etisalat Group
Etisalat, being the pioneer and leading telecom operators in UAE, has always been at the forefront of the Middle East’s technological revolution. One such advanced initiative by Etisalat is the adoption of ICT in the form of ERP and CRM techniques. The emphasis here lies in identifying critical value adding processes and redesigning them to become customer-centric. UAE telecom companies, having Etisalat at the forefront, are continuously adopting ICT to redefine their customer service parameters and for retaining customers.
Etisalat has over 6.3 million mobile subscribers in UAE, representing a market penetration of above 200%. The company has been utilizing a number of tailored ICT business products and tools to enhance customer communication and services and to provide them the business solutions that matches their needs.
Etisalat’s rich communications ecosystems strategy, commonly known as ‘Smart Hub’, has been fully equipped with access to key telecom technologies and services, and connectivity to Etisalat’s regional customer base.
Ali Amiri, the Executive Vice President of Etisalat’s Carrier and Wholesale Services says: ‘Etisalat’s vision is to enable individuals, businesses and governments and extend their reach through the provision of the latest technology’.
In 2012, UAE hosted several significant International Telecommunication Union (ICT) events including ‘ITU Telecom World 2012’, ‘the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12)’, and ‘the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12)’.
The purpose was to highlight the importance of ICT regulations and developing customer-centric culture to positively influence and shape a new era for the telecommunications sector.
The above mentioned ICT events greatly helped Etisalat to address the challenges to standardization in the ICT and revising strategies for bridging the gaps in establishing customer-oriented standards across regions and markets.
– Du Group
The second most admired emerging markets telecom group, the Du, is a rapidly growing enterprise, pushing a total customer base to 6.64million mobile subscribers in UAE. Du has a strong brand positioning in the Middle East, due to its persistent high quality customer-centric communication services and innovative yet affordable products and choices.
Osman Sultan, the Du Chief Executive says:
‘Efficiency and cost control will remain a strategic driver throughout 2013 and beyond, while rapidly evolving consumer requirements and technology advances will continue to drive our investment programmes.’
Like Etisalat, Du was also recognized as the best provider in the category, ‘ICT Support & Services’ for business, by SME Stars of Business Awards, 2010. Du gained this achievement due to its provision of enhanced top-of-the-line ICT related customer support and services aimed towards SME business customers.
The annual ‘Customer Service Report’, year 2010-2011, by Du, shows a considerably higher percentage of customer satisfaction i.e. 90%, as per company’s internal assessment. The report represents a benchmark analysis of various customer service touch points in the UAE, including Contact Centre’s, Email, Directory Services and Social Media.
Besides company’s internal assessment, the statistics of ‘Mystery Caller Scores’, calls made by third party quality monitoring agents to evaluate the quality of service without disclosing their identity, are also greatly satisfied i.e. 86%. The survey results clearly show Du’s consistent delivery of high quality services and an outstanding customer experience at every touch point.
In 2012, UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) carried out an extensive benchmarking survey of the telecom operators, Etisalat & Du, to ensure both quality and variety in mobile network services throughout the UAE. The survey covered all the regions of the emirates including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Um Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, the Western Region and major highways.
The key dimensions examined were ‘call completion success rate’, ‘call setup success rate’, ‘call drop rate’, ‘voice quality’, ‘service coverage’ and ‘data transfer rate’. The results for the same are mentioned below:
The TRA survey results of UAE leading mobile networks, Etisalat and Du, were benchmarked against other similar global surveys. The results indicated that the telecom operators of UAE, Etisalat and Du, have surpassed other countries in terms of providing outstanding service quality and network coverage.
Having staff in a company focused around delivering a ‘great’ customer experience enables it to produce better products, provide better network services, and deliver an overall better customer experience than its competitors.
Middle East telecom operators are recognizing that focusing on customer satisfaction could be more important than simply trying to expand their subscriber base or market share. Therefore, telecom companies are shifting their focus towards customer-centricity, in terms of changing strategic response.
A recent development to promote customer-centricity in telecom operator’s corporate culture is UAE’s telecom sector collaboration with Kinetic BPO, which aims to provide customized outsourcing solutions to UAE telecom groups, with a particular focus on improving the overall customer experience.
Emphasizing the need of customer-centric corporate culture, Joe Tawfik, the Founder and Group CEO of Kinetic BPO stated: ‘Good customer service practices should be part of a telecom provider’s organizational culture and not a knee jerk reaction to increased competition’.
The purpose of the telcos-kinetic joint collaboration is to target the customer service sections of UAE telecom groups, Etisalat and Du, and to provide specialist business process outsourcing services in customer care and sales operations in the telecom sector.
Talking about the UAE’s telecom industry forthcoming challenges like ‘an increased number of mobile virtual network operators’, ‘mobile number portability’, ‘shifting needs of the customers’ and ‘technological changes’, Mr. Tawfik said:
‘To address these key challenges in the region, telcos need to reduce operating costs and utilize the capital for sustainable growth. He further said that Etisalat and du should also improve customer service and offer innovative products to sustain their customer base.’
Currently, both Etisalat and Du engage in customer services via their social media platforms, and recently, Du also came under public criticism for an inappropriate tweet to a customer’s complaint. A partnership with organization like Kinetic BPO, having expertise and experience over 50 years in the telecommunications sector worldwide, could be a great opportunity for UAE telecom operators to generate excellent results in terms of customer service quality and business operations.
The most essential component of becoming customer-centric is to build customer advocacy. Today’s customers are more connected, in terms of sharing experiences with friends, family, and their entire network in real time. A high customer experience rating leads to loyalty, which in turn can evolve into advocacy.
UAE telecom operators, Etisalat and Du, must improve their ‘entire customer experience’ insight by focusing on attributes that drive customer advocacy.
IBM Institute for Business Value conducted a survey of 24 countries worldwide, including UAE, about the ‘entire customer experience’ and ‘advocacy level’, in both mature and emerging markets. The key dimensions examined were ‘consumers spending priorities’, ’experience with products & services’, ‘access to information sources’, ‘attitude towards service providers’, and ‘purchasing values’.
The survey results revealed that the average proportion of customer advocacy in the telecommunications industry is quite low. Globally, only 18% customers are advocates, while majority of them i.e. 60% are antagonists.
Several ‘Consumer Behavior Research Studies’ have proved that a higher percentage of consumer advocacy means, a higher number of loyal clients who refer new business, tend to subscribe to more services, and resist competitive offers. While, antagonists harbor negative opinions about their provider and possibly talk negatively about the company. Antagonists can adversely influence business economics and other customers.
From the above figure, it is clearly visible that antagonists (at 48% approx.) outnumber advocates (at 34% approx.) in the UAE telecommunications industry. Telecom operators must realize the importance of customer experience and advocacy. Understanding your clients in terms of ‘advocates’ or ‘antagonists’, can greatly help the telecom operators to improve customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention.
A new research has revealed that by the end of year 2016, the number of mobile subscribers in the Middle East will reach over 350 million. The UAE telecommunication sector is witnessing rapid changes and is very active in addressing the need for change. However, by placing greater emphasis on customer desires and preferences, telecom operators can maximize their customer lifetime value and differentiate from the competition.
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