The Senior Vice President of Customer Operations at du, Ismail Mohammed gives us an overview of du’s employee and customer centric culture, highlighting the importance of employee happiness that in turn leads to an elevated customer experience and higher customer satisfaction levels. In this interview, he also discusses the latest technological innovations and various promotions launched across the UAE for new and existing du customers.
Q: How is du implementing and utilizing the latest technologies and smart services in order to provide a better Customer Experience?
Ismail Mohammed:Increasing the happiness index is at the core of the Smart City vision. An understanding of this drives us to place the consumer at the heart of our business model. All our products and services are geared to deliver a unique and seamless experience to all our customers at all times; thus contributing to the elevated happiness levels that will drive the UAE leadership’s Smart City Vision.
Convenience, which is what we provide through our seamless connectivity, is one of the main components of happiness.
A robust infrastructure enabled us to offer WiFi UAE to over 200 public areas in the nation as the Smart City official Wi-Fi provider in Dubai, with the prospects of expanding it throughout other emirates. We implemented pioneering video support channels at selected du retail stores so that customers can resolve their complaints with experts in their area of concern through video conferencing facilities. This innovative offering was nominated in this year’s TM forum Excellence Award under the Customer Centricity category.
We also aim to inculcate a culture of customer centricity within the organization internally as we believe that a happy staff will create an engaging experience for our customers.
Q: What rewards and promotions are you currently offering to attract new customers?
Ismail Mohammed:At du, we add life to life by actively listening to our customers and constantly developing products and services that are in line with their needs. The UAE is an open and competitive market; customer retention is highly dependent on the quality and range of products and services offered, how competitively priced they are and how much value they add to each individual entity. du’s newly launched offers provide both flexibility and simplicity, besides being competitively priced, truly showing the customer that ‘du gets you’.
We offer myriad products and services for the enterprise and consumer segment. The enterprise segment can benefit from Managed Broadband Services which offer best-in-breed products and solutions. In addition, we offer our consumer and enterprise segment clients summer promotions with unbeatable data roaming rates, and our consumer segment will benefit from fixed roaming call rates to the UAE of AED2.4 per minute from 60 destinations. In addition, du customers receive an AED 600 discount and 10GB data when they purchase their new smartphone through the Smartphone Festival offer.
We strive to add extra value to each dirham that the customer spends with us. The du double everything promotion, for example, allows Pay As You Go and Alo customers to receive up to 100 percent bonus credit across all recharge options. In addition, du prepaid data customers receive up to 150 percent extra data allowances on both daily and monthly data pack purchases.
It doesn’t end there, we are adding value to specific sectors of the community by offering them targeted value products. The Government Plan, for example, is aimed at the specific needs of UAE government employees, the Smart and Emirati plans offer tailor-made solutions to customers depending on numbers they call more frequently, local or international. All of these solutions are completely flexible and can be tailored with add-on bundles for more data or talk time, to really add life to life to the user.
Furthermore, a new offering from du allows its home service customers to call over 120 countries for just one fils per second with their groundbreaking ‘1 fils offer’. And we are giving our Filipino contingent the opportunity to call any network in the Philippines for just AED0.36 per minute. Our revolutionary du Tuesdays offer allows our customers to enjoy two movie tickets for the price of one at VOX cinemas across the UAE every Tuesday.
We are launching new offers and services every day to surprise and delight our customers and show them that they truly are at the very core of our business strategy.
Q: In your opinion, which is more important, ‘service with speed’ or ‘service with a smile?’
Ismail Mohammed:Creating a great service atmosphere and driving our customer centric vision through our business depends completely on our staff. At du we create high engagement levels amongst our colleagues. As a testament to our efforts we were recently awarded the Gallup Great Workplace Award for the second year running. Last year, du’s CEO Osman Sultan, was named Customer Experience Champion of the Year for the exceptional leadership he alone has demonstrated in engaging the organization to make the customer central to everything that it does.
So, to answer your question, offering both service with speed and a smile are imperative to du’s customer centricity goals. We were the first telecommunications provider to launch the customer service report analyzing levels of customer service at du across all touch points, and giving a transparent review of our achievements and areas of improvement. At du we are dedicated to improving our network and service offerings to ensure the highest customer experience possible.
Q: What are your feedback mechanisms to assess customer satisfaction with your services?
Ismail Mohammed:We truly believe that fostering an ecosystem of engagement for our staff and our customers, results in memorable experiences for both. Hence our efforts to ensure customer satisfaction begins at a much earlier stage, by ensuring that our staff members are satisfied. Last year du increased its employee engagement levels to 4.29 placing the organization in the 65th percentile of Gallup’s global benchmark. Based on employee feedback, du has introduced several initiatives to further engagement levels throughout 2015. We find that satisfied employees base inform a satisfied customer base.
We really depend on the “Voice of the Customer” to measure satisfaction levels through different surveys across our contact channels. Our primary contact channels include the 100 percent Emirati-run contact center in Fujairah and our retail shops across the Emirates where customers can have face to face interaction with our members of staff. In addition to this, our customers can contact us through our call center or online, by emailing us or contacting us via our social media channels, which are closely monitored. To confirm satisfaction and measure first contact resolution, we conduct surveys after service fulfillment. In addition, we use metrics such as the net promoter score (NPS) to measure feedback.
Q: What kind of customer service training programs are in place for your call center staff?
Ismail Mohammed:At du, we believe that training programs should educate and add value to the lives of our employees which is why our programs are not limited to “Product”, “Process” and “Soft Skills” training. We are firm believers in the potential of our staff to deliver a superlative experience to the end-user; hence we try to empower the employees to develop their abilities in other areas through trainings in Six Sigma, a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects, to drive operational improvement and leadership and management programs.
We also conduct training and knowledge development for our staff. This year our Fujairah Call Centre staff received training and certificates from the renowned British Institute of Leadership and Management, for completing an intensive training course. Following the training, du employee knowledge levels had increased by 75 percent and the staff reported a 98 percent satisfaction score in the training they had received.
The training offered by du has had a direct impact on improving customer service and satisfaction levels. Between 2012 and 2014 the call center more than doubled the number of calls handled annually. In addition, last year the average speed for answering calls was just six seconds and based on post call survey responses, resulting in 94 percent of customer ratings being good or very good.
Q: What are your customer complaint procedures and in what order of priority are they resolved?
Ismail Mohammed:The first part of complaint resolution is to acknowledge the issue, and thereafter ensure that the issue is resolved timely to deliver excellent experience. Complaints are acknowledged and a process of resolution is started through all of our first contact channels, which include social media, call center, retail support, email and the like. Our target is to provide first contact resolution through these initial channels. However, if customer complaints are not resolved at the first point of contact, trouble tickets are created for next level support, who actively work towards a resolution. All channels are required to prioritize complaints based on their severity. For example, du offers a unique type of immediate support for home service customers who face issues impacting their triple-play services (landline, TV and broadband).
Q: How does your customer service staff handle irate and dissatisfied customers?
Ismail Mohammed:We train our customer service representatives to adhere to global best practice guidelines on dealing with dissatisfied and irate customers. Employees are taught to listen actively, allowing the customer to air their grievances and express their opinions. They retain a level of sympathy and understanding throughout the call and acknowledge mistakes that have been made by apologizing when appropriate. Our staff is trained to always offer a solution and to maintain their personal integrity at all times. If the customer continues to be dissatisfied, the call is escalated to a supervisor.
Q: How important is social media in providing customer care and what is your strategy on this?
Ismail Mohammed:The penetration of smartphone technology in the UAE is one of the highest in the world. Given the fact that there are approximately 5 million Facebook users in the UAE, it makes complete sense for us to extend customer service on the online and social media space.
Social media is an excellent tool for us to reach out to customers and the entire nation as a whole. Today, it is a critical channel as all conversations are public and can easily go viral. If customer support is offered correctly, it can generate positive result for our brand. In addition, by taking note of all our customer’s comments, we started learning about the concerns they had with our products and services more quickly than before, which allowed us to enact positive alterations to these.
Q: What services do you have available for customers with special needs?
Ismail Mohammed:At du, we are in the process of adopting a general strategy for developing communication services for our customers with special needs, which will include solutions for both our auditory and visually challenged customers. These will be rolled out later in the year in different stages.
du supports differently abled communities by offering them job opportunities suitable to their interests, abilities and professional competencies so that they can effectively participate in the development of our society. This is in line with the general strategy for developing the UAE community, which stems from our responsibility towards the UAE Vision 2021. As part of the Give and Gain initiative this year, du volunteers helped the Special Needs Foundation in creating a documentary about their work, as they strive to create a support network for the families of people with special needs.
Since 2012, we have employed a number of UAE nationals with special needs, in various positions within the company, such as legal affairs, call centers and customer service. In addition, du is committed to creating a culture of support for the special needs community by involving staff members in a variety of CSR initiatives.
The facilities within our buildings and centers cater to people with special needs, with the use of sensory systems and audio alerts in the lifts, in addition to private parking and entrances for our employees and customers with special needs.
Q: Do you offer customer service and support in multiple languages, catering to your diverse consumer base?
Ismail Mohammed:At du we provide support in the most spoken languages in the UAE including; English, Arabic, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali.
In addition, du offers support and information to customers in both English and Arabic across its social media channels including its Facebook and Twitter pages, which we update on a regular basis. Our LinkedIn page supports job seekers in the UAE and You Tube gives our customers a glimpse into our business as well as the thoughts of our higher management in both Arabic and English.
Q: What kind of online customer support do you offer on your website?
Ismail Mohammed:We offer an array of online support mechanisms for our customers. du self-help pages are available on du.ae for mobile and home, as well as billing and payment support. In addition, “du’s online community” website gives customers a platform to share tips and solutions with other mobile, internet and TV users in the UAE. We also offer the du Selfcare portal that allows customers to manage their account, recharge Pay As You Go, process payments, view their bills and manage or activate a number of mobile services, and change their plans, data bundles, SMS bundles, Blackberry, phone settings, caller Tunes, and the like.
Q: What services and features do you plan to introduce in the coming year to further enhance the customer experience?
Ismail Mohammed:We are studying the feasibility of introducing new digital support channels to our customers, as well as smart services that are aligned with our leaders’ smart city vision. Smart government comes with mobile empowerment. In light of this we are planning to roll out an additional 100 locations for WiFi UAE across Dubai and Abu Dhabi by the end of 2015.
du is also looking at launching WiFi UAE across all the emirates in the near future. In addition to this, we are looking at how best to introduce special support channels for our customers with special needs. What we want to create ultimately is a completely converged communications offering that encompasses all echelons of our society, thereby offering them connectivity and contributing towards building the smart future of the UAE.
About Ismail Mohammed:
Ismail’s professional career spans over 20 years working across the UAE’s ever-evolving telecommunications industry. His core competencies include identifying and extracting efficiencies; setting and enforcing robust operational controls; defining corporate-level strategies; demonstrating analytical decision-making; and implementing change management and innovation.